Harnessing the power of the wind and the seas around Shetland to generate renewable energy offers huge potential for the islands to lead the way in clean energy innovation, including green hydrogen production.

Renewable energy could offer the most significant step change in Shetland’s economy since the discovery of North Sea Oil and Gas nearly 50 years ago. We are extremely fortunate in Shetland to have a substantial quantity of renewable energy resource in and around Shetland, which is estimated at 2,200 gigawatt hours per annum.

We are currently only harnessing energy from a tiny fraction of this with just over 16,000KW of renewable energy installed across domestic and commercial systems. But that is changing.

By investing in renewable energy solutions, Shetland can continue exporting energy to the wider world, diversifying our economy and creating opportunities for future generations.

High output windfarms already exist in Shetland, including community-owned assets, and several major onshore developments are either under construction or have been consented.

The largest of them, Viking Energy Wind Farm, will start generating huge amounts of renewable energy in 2024 when its 103 turbines are activated. It is anticipated that with 443MW installed capacity, Viking will generate enough wind energy to power over 450,000 homes.

Shetland is also home to the world's first array of tidal turbines in the Bluemull Sound between Yell and Unst. The island of Unst is also home to the Pure Energy Centre.

Offshore energy opportunities

Plans to develop offshore windfarms in the NE1 site to the east of Bressay continue to progress. Floating turbines could generate around 3GW of energy, potentially ushering in a new era of energy-related work in the islands.

Key projects were awarded seabed development rights in the 2022 ScotWind leasing round, offering huge potential for clean energy generation and associated investment and employment opportunities.

Energy company ESB’s Stoura Offshore Wind Farm is in early-stage development. Its site lies about 40km east of Shetland and it is estimated the installed capacity will be around 500MW.

Meanwhile, Arven Offshore Wind Farm is targeting the early-2030s to start production on its own site east of Shetland. The partnership between Ocean Winds and Mainstream Renewable Power anticipates installed capacity of approaching 2.3GW, with the promise of over 1,000 jobs during construction and long-term positions once operational.

Clean energy and decarbonisation

Much of the renewable energy generated in Shetland and nearby offshore projects could be used to fuel the ambitious plans being pursued by the ORION Clean Energy Project.

As a collaboration between Shetland Islands Council, Lerwick Port Authority, Net Zero Technology Centre, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the University of Strathclyde, and industry partners, ORION aims to make Shetland a world leading clean energy island and deliver innovative technologies as well as 1,000 energy sector jobs. The SIC is working in partnership with other authorities as one of the driving forces behind the Islands Centre for Net Zero, supporting the energy transition.

Since the 1970s, Shetland has been home to the Sullom Voe Terminal which played a key role in the development of offshore oil and gas industries. Terminal owners EnQuest are now planning a transformation of the site into a centre for global-scale decarbonisation and new energy projects.

Veri Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary, is leading the way with plans to use existing infrastructure for carbon storage, green hydrogen generation and the electrification of offshore oil and gas assets.

Just as Shetland played a pivotal part in the North Sea oil industry, the islands are preparing to fulfil an equally crucial role in the global transition to clean energy.

Opportunities exist for developers working in the wind (both offshore and onshore), wave and tidal power sectors. For more information contact Katrina Wiseman, Head of Business Growth at Highland and Islands Enterprise to find out more. Email katrina.wiseman@hient.co.uk or call +44 (0)1595 744 909.