Finding herself back in Shetland after a break of 40 years, Julie Graham ponders her new life as Viking Energy windfarm’s community engagement manager.
I fell in love with Shetland in the late 1970s and over the years have told people how I found living here. I would wax lyrical about the amazing scenery, the slower pace of life, the incredible wildlife and that the weather is always a topic for conversation – mainly that it has a mind all of its own, changing in the shortest period of time from sun to gales and horizontal rain.
You might think a windfarm in such a remote environment would receive minimal attention – a small population, swathes of peat land and lots of wind, ideal! However, there is little agreement when it comes to the windfarm and in truth there are significant differences of opinion, which I believe is to be expected.
As we all know “the only constant in life is change” and how we handle those changes and challenges will be different for each of us; but the challenge of providing a better future in the form of cleaner energy is one which affects us all.
It is hard to be unmoved by a project of this size but there is a balance to be found as Shetland shares responsibility for the UK’s carbon reduction promise.
So how do you build a windfarm? Well it’s a complex process that requires the input of a huge number of specialists from start to finish.
Firstly, the location must have plenty of wind, which we all agree Shetland certainly has and where the turbines are positioned, they must make the most of it.
Then comes the logistics of accessing these locations. Access tracks need building for the safe delivery of components, ground conditions need investigating such as peat depths and rock types so that roadways can handle specialist delivery vehicles.
Then there’s getting the turbines to Shetland, yet another complicated task – from potentially difficult sea conditions to getting ships into Lerwick Harbour not to mention careful planning to get out of Lerwick to site.
All of this has taken years of planning and dedication from hundreds of people. Windfarms aren’t built because it’s easy, or on a whim; they’re built because we need them.
So, you may ask “Is it worth it?”. That will be something that’s up for discussion years after Viking is built and electricity is being produced.
We all have a responsibility to future generations to leave the place in better shape than we found it and that means reducing carbon emissions, fully embracing green energies and accepting that our landscape will need to look different to achieve that.
I have no doubt that climate change is a major challenge we face globally. Because of that it was an easy choice to actively play my part in working towards a more sustainable, effective solution for producing energy that will benefit not just Shetland but our planet.
The full feature appears in this week’s Shetland Times.