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By Promote ShetlandSeptember 22nd 2022

With abundant natural resources and a track record of innovation and specialist energy sector experience, Shetland is ideally located to capitalise on emerging clean energy opportunities.

As global efforts to tackle the climate crisis gather pace, Shetland is moving ahead with ambitious plans to become a “clean energy island”.

The islands have a long and proud association with the energy sector, leading the way with innovation and expertise since the emergence of the North Sea oil industry in the 1970s. Now, as the world transitions to net zero, Shetland is on the cusp of a clean energy revolution with nationally significant developments including tidal generation, and onshore and offshore wind.

It is estimated that the potential in the wind and waters around Shetland could be used to generate around 2,200 gigawatt hours of energy per annum. That huge amount is way more than can be used in Shetland, meaning the islands will begin exporting power to the UK National Grid via a sub-sea interconnector cable.

Meanwhile, ambitious plans are being developed by the ORION project to use some of the renewable energy to create green hydrogen, at large scale, in Shetland.

ORION is a collaboration between Shetland Islands Council, the Oil and Gas Technology Centre and Strathclyde University. As well as hydrogen production, it also envisages using renewable energy to electrify offshore oil and gas installations, and power the islands with locally generated clean energy, helping to abolish fuel poverty in Shetland and end reliance on fossil fuels.

One of those already involved in energy-related work is Fred Gibson, director of Shetland Composites, a Lerwick-based firm that supplies tidal and wind turbine blades to some of the islands’ renewable energy projects. He recognises Shetland’s “huge potential” in renewable energy.

Douglas Irvine is the council’s project lead on the ORION project and is equally enthusiastic about the potential that it could deliver for the islands’ community, and much further afield.

He says, “There are numerous benefits for Shetland; we would retain energy as a main part of our economy, meaning that we would still have a thousand-plus jobs involved in energy production in Shetland.”

In terms of green hydrogen production, the goal is to start small, but Douglas adds, “There is the potential by 2040 to be producing a substantial part of the UK’s hydrogen demand, in Shetland.”

Those bold ambitions are backed up by the knowledge that Shetland has served the energy industry for decades, and that the islands are home to many skilled engineering firms with exactly the experience needed to help build a clean energy future.

There is the potential by 2040 to be producing a substantial part of the UK’s hydrogen demand, in Shetland.

Douglas Irvine

Future benefits for the community and the economy include billions of pounds of investment, and the thousand-plus skilled jobs linked to the energy industry, as well as the opportunity to make a significant contribution in the race towards carbon neutrality.

That potential sets the context as Shetland plans to host its first Climate Change Week in autumn 2022.

The local programme of events coincides with Scotland’s Climate Week, which aims to encourage conversations about the impact of climate change across the country and how Scotland can become a Net Zero nation.

Shetland Climate Week features includes energy showcases, a sea mammal survey session, beach clean-ups, film screenings, a seafood tasting event, peatland restoration, and an open day at the Ness of Sound farm in Lerwick.

Read more about Shetland Climate Week at shetland.gov.uk/climate-week and orioncleanenergy.com/ses2022