Judge gives go-ahead to new 100-turbine Shetland wind farm plan which has divided the community

Viking Energy wind farm plan
Viking Energy wind farm plan

The Scottish Land Court has given the final go-ahead for developers to build a new wind farm on officially-designated crofting land in Shetland in a plan has divided island communities.

Viking Energy Ltd is a partnership between a local community trust and Pearth-based utility giant SSE, which wants to build a new 103-turbine wind farm in the north mainland of the Shetland isles.

In his verdict, judge Lord Minginish said that the court ‘recognises that the outcome will be deeply disappointing to the four respondents (appellants) to the Viking application,’ and added that it “has to apply the law as it understands it.”

“The court wishes, nevertheless, to record its respect for the sincerity and strength of the respondents’ feelings in relation to the perceived impact of the proposed development and thank them for the civility with which they presented their arguments at the hearing,” he added.

The project  first got planning consent from then Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing in April 2012 but the decision was challenged through the courts by anti-wind farm campaigners. Their efforts failed and the consent was reaffirmed in February 2015 – only to be appeal again on whether the appellants were entitled to challenge the consent.

The consent allows a potential output of up to 457 megawatts, which would make Viking the third-largest wind farm in the UK.  If a 3.6MW turbine is used, the maximum output would be 370.8MW – enough to meet the electricity needs of up to 335,000 homes while saving 0.61 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year..

A Viking Energy spokesman said that around 140 people will be needed to work on the project during construction and around 35 permanent jobs could be created. He added:

“As a result of the community shareholding, millions of pounds could be injected into the Shetland economy annually. In addition, the islands would receive £1.85 million in community benefit every year.”

The Land Court said it was satisfied by the case presented by Viking Energy and felt that “the evidence led by the respondents at the hearing does not, in the court’s view, provide a basis upon which the application can properly be refused”.

Sustainable Shetland vice-chairman James Mackenzie, who represented two of the respondents, said the decision was not unexpected.

3 Aug 2018

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