The vice-chairman of Sustainable Shetland has reiterated his plea to councillors not to back Viking Energy’s plans to increase the maximum size of its proposed turbines.
James MacKenzie has spoken ahead of this week’s full council meeting, where the controversial proposals are due to be discussed.
Viking Energy is seeking to increase the height of the proposed 103 turbines by 10 metres to a maximum of 155 metres.
Last week members of Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee refused to decide on the application and called for the proposals to go before full council on Wednesday.
In the meantime, Mr MacKenzie has highlighted a risk of peat slides as an argument against the development.
In a letter to this newspaper, Mr MacKenzie referred to a “checking report” prepared for the Energy Consents Unit by Andy Mills.
“Dr Mills’ report concerns the issue of peat slides, which are known to occur in Shetland with increasing frequency and with potentially devastating, even life-threatening, consequences,” Mr MacKenzie stated.
“It is of great significance that new Scottish government guidelines on peat stability assessment (PSA) issued in 2017 recognise the special characteristics of peat.”
Mr MacKenzie pointed to an extract from the guidelines.
He said it implied “that the original PSA supplied by Viking Energy in its 2009 Environmental Impact Assessment and submitted, without amendment, for its variation application is inappropriate and/or unreliable”.
Mr MacKenzie said it was estimated that Scotland’s peatlands held “approximately 50 per cent” of the UK’s total soil carbon store, adding “the potential impacts of windfarm developments must be considered alongside their potential benefits”.
He added: “Of course there is huge pressure from the developer, not to mention the Scottish government, not to delay the Viking Energy project any further, as the dates for the next CfD [Contracts for Difference] auction and the 2020 planning permission deadline for the development to proceed approach.
“Notwithstanding that, I reiterate my plea made to the planning committee members: it is within your powers to object to this variation application, and I believe there are sufficient valid reasons for doing so.
“At the very least I would hope that a condition requiring resubmission of the PSA is attached to any approval. That the draft conditions do not include any consideration of peat stability is a major omission.”