Controversial plans to build a 103-turbine wind farm on moorland in the centre of the Shetland islands to the north of Scotland have been approved. The wind farm, which will be the third biggest in Scotland, will be run by community company Viking Energy.
Protesters claimed the development was too big and would blight the landscape. Supporters said it would raise money for the islands, create jobs and help meet renewable energy targets. But now energy minister Fergus Ewing has granted consent for the scheme, following a period during which Viking Energy scaled back its proposals, last September reducing the number of turbines from 150 to 127 and cutting back the ground area that would be covered. The firm said it had listened to the community and made changes to address concerns. In February, more than 300 people marched through the centre of Lerwick to protest at the plans. Ministers have now withheld consent for a further 24 turbines
Viking Energy is an equal partnership between a company set up to represent the interests of the Shetland community and power giant Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). It is estimated that the 370MW wind farm which could supply about eight times as many homes as the islands’ population of 22000, could bring about £30m in annual income for the local community.
David Gardner, SSE’s director of onshore renewables, said: “Shetland has a fantastic wind resource which means that the Viking Energy wind farm will be one of the most productive sites in the world.”
However, RSPB Scotland expressed disappointment that the scale of the development was not reduced further. And Stuart Brooks, chief executive of conservation charity the John Muir Trust, said: “This is quite possibility the largest industrial development in the history of Shetland. The scale of impact on the world renowned natural landscape of these islands is unimaginable.”