Yell wind harnessed, as volcanic Icelandic power could be cabled to UK

by Tom Morton -

Almost half a century after mains electricity first came to the island of Yell, This month saw the opening of a windfarm which will export electricity to the local grid and could make up to £1m for the local community.

Folk on the 80 square mile island, the second biggest in Shetland, had no mains electricity until the late 1960s, when a cable was finally laid following the successful ‘Yell for Light, Light for Yell’ campaign.

North Yell Development Council (NYDC) launched the five-generator, 4.5 megawatt project at Garth, between Basta Voe and Gloup, at the start of April. Electricity will be sold to the local grid as part of the NINES (Northern Isles New Energy Solutions) and once bank loans have been repaid, up to £1m could flow into the local community as a result.

In a poignant move, the five turbines all have names - Undaunted, Ann Jessie, Excelsior, Eel and Eliza --- taken from boats which were lost in the Gloup disaster of 1881, when a storm saw 10 boats lost and 58 fishermen killed.

Planning permission has been granted by Shetland Islands council for a much larger windfarm on Yell - the Beaw Field project by Peel Energy. This 17 turbine, 57.8 mW project is now under consideration by the Energy Consents Unit, and could in turn provide what Peel Energy claim could be around £250,000 in community benefit. The company’s project manager Bernadette Barry has admitted that the development hinges on provision of an interconnector, an HVDC (high voltage direct current) link between Shetland and the mainland of Scotland. This has always been seen as dependent on the massive Viking Energy windfarm on the Shetland mainland going ahead.

Peel this month unveiled proposals for an even bigger, 21-turbine windfarm at Mossy Hill between Lerwick and Scalloway on the Shetland mainland, with public consultation meetings on 25, 26 and 27 April in Lerwick, Scalloway, Gulberwick and Tingwall.

To enable them to proceed, both Peel and Viking Energy hope to obtain Westminster Government subsidies via the CfD ‘Contract for Difference’ scheme which aims to support offshore wind deveopments. However, the question of whether or not projects on Shetland - and the Western Isles - can be classified as ‘offshore’ developments has yet to be settled.

The question of whether or not projects on Shetland can be classified by the UK Government as 'offshore'...has yet to be settled

Talks were held in Stornoway this month after Scotland’s energy minister Paul Wheelhouse and the UK Energy Secretary Greg Clark co-chaired a meeting of the Scottish Islands Renewables Delivery Forum. In advance of that, Mr Wheelhouse called for the Westminster Government to recognise the “vital importance” of island renewables to the UK energy market counterpart.

The UK Government recently held a consultation on support for so-called ‘Remote islands Wind’ projects in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles. It is reckoned that island projects already on the table could involve investment sums of up to£2.5 billion.

“We must do all we can to enable our island communities to benefit from this substantial resource,” said Mr Wheelhouse. “A resource large enough to meet five per cent of total UK electricity demand, provide significant boost to decarbonising our electricity supply, and which could be worth up to £725 million to local economies.

“The planned projects on the Western and Shetland Isles would face extremely high locational transmission charges to provide electricity to the mainland. That is why an appropriate support mechanism is so important to help unlock very significant capital investment from the private sector and community-owned developers as well as, in turn, underpinning the investment case to National Grid for vital islands grid connections.

“Responses to the UK Government’s consultation show the case for supporting island wind projects is stronger than ever.”

  • Meanwhile, as the future of a cable between Shetland and the UK is discussed, an international team of scientists is to study the possibility of geothermal energy being produced from magma for the first time. The £80m project will be led by Iceland's Geothermal Research Group and the British Geological Survey, with 38 bodies from 11 countries including Canada, the USA and Russia also involved.

Plans to export this energy from Iceland could also revive a plan to lay a cable from Iceland to Britain in what would be the world's longest power interconnector. This would carry power from energy-rich Iceland produced by both geothermal and hydro-electric sources.

Since 2012, the company Atlantic SuperConnection has been developing a 1500km subsea High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) cable to bring 1.2GW of baseload geothermal and hydro-electrical power from Iceland to the UK. This would provide power to approximately two million British homes at a price the company claims is below current low carbon sources, including new nuclear.

A cable from Iceland to Britain would be the world's longest power interconnector

Posted in: Renewables