The Shetland Islands in the north-east of Scotland regularly experience the highest wind speeds in Europe, and to take advantage of this a new on-shore wind farm project has been approved by ministers, despite resistance by local residents.
The joint venture between energy giant SSE and Viking Energy Ltd will consist of 103 wind turbines, cut down from 127 by Fergus Ewing, the Scottish energy minister, and will have a 370 megawatt capacity. It will provide electricity to power 175,000 homes, more than 16 times the number on the Shetland Islands, and generate earnings of £30 million a year for the islanders.
Hopes are high for the wind farm as a small, existing turbine, called Betsy, already holds the world record for its efficiency; 59% due to the consistently powerful winds. The developers believe that the Viking wind farm has the potential to be the most productive in the world.
Ewing said that, “developments like Viking will help us meet our 2020 target, and will make a huge contribution to our target of 500MW from community and locally owned renewable energy by 2020, while benefiting communities, cutting emissions, and helping to keep energy bills lower.”
More than 10 percent of the Shetland Islands’ population objected to the project, many claiming that it should be much smaller, so as to only provide energy for the islands, and reduce the impact on the environment, both physically and visually.
Aedán Smith, the head of planning at Scotland’s RSPB, said it was critical that the developers made substantial efforts to protect the environment. Yet despite the reduction in the size of the farm he still commented that, “the developers and Scottish ministers should have gone much further to try and ensure that any negative consequences would be minimised, and it is disappointing that they have decided to risk the Shetland environment, as well as birds like whimbrel, with such a large scale proposal in their heartland.”
The project is expected to cost about £566 million and be completed in 2017. A subsea interconnector cable between the Shetland Islands and the north-east of Scotland to connect the wind farm to the national grid has already been approved, but is still to be laid.