Viking Wind Farm Passes Legal Test

by Alastair Hamilton -

Proposals for a large wind farm in Shetland have been given a green light by the Supreme Court in London.

There has been talk of constructing a large wind farm in Shetland for more than ten years, the preferred area for such development being an area of hill and moorland in the central and northern mainland. The approved scheme has been jointly developed by Shetland Charitable Trust and Scottish and Southern Energy and the approved plan allows for 103 turbines generating up to 457 megawatts, which would make it the third-largest wind farm in Scotland. However, the output would depend on the kind of turbines used; for example, using 3.6 megawatt turbines would produce 371 megawatts. The involvement of the Shetland Charitable Trust is intended to ensure that the community gains more than the usual level of financial benefit from the development.

Controversy around the project has focused partly on the visual impact of the turbines, which will be 145m high, and the quarries needed for construction aggregate; partly on the effect on peatlands and the area's wildlife; and partly on the concerns of local people about proximity to homes, noise, shadow flicker from blades and health impacts. The opposition to the project has been led by a voluntary group, Sustainable Shetland. 2,772 individual objections were lodged, with 1,109 expressions of support. In the absence of a public inquiry, it has pursued its case through the courts over the past two years.

Although the Supreme Court has ruled in the developers" favour, the project must still cross a number of hurdles before it can go ahead. Firstly, Shetland is not connected to the UK national grid and interconnector cables will be needed. Secondly, the viability of the wind farm depends on the financial regime in which it will operate, including the framework of borrowing costs, energy prices and subsidies. Even if all goes according to plan, it is likely to be another five to six years before it begins to feed energy to the grid.

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