IT is an issue that has divided a community for more than a decade. When plans for a giant wind farm to be built on pristine peatland on Shetland were proposed in 2005, it was presented to the islanders as a community-owned enterprise with the potential to earn them £37 million a year. But after 14 years and growing concerns over Shetland’s fragile biodiversity being shattered by the 145ft turbines being built on pristine peatland and the infrastructure required to construct them, hundreds of islanders are now calling for the project to be scrapped. Frank Hay, chairman of Sustainable Shetland, an action group formed in 2009 to take on the council-owned Viking Energy Shetland (VES) and partner Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE)’s multi-million pound Viking Wind Farm, said: “It’s basically economics against the environment. The scale of the wind farm and where they are proposing to build the turbines, it’s simply not right.” More than 800 members of Sustainable Shetland, who raised £200,000 to challenge the farm’s planning consent, resulting in a hearing at London’s Supreme Court in 2014, cite the approval of the wind farm without a Public Local Inquiry as another motivator. The involvement of Shetland Islands Council (SIC) as developers soon attracted accusations of conflicts of interest, which led to the council transferring its share – 50 per cent of ownership – to Shetland Charitable Trust, which invested about £10m in the project. In March this year the trust announced it would not be contributing further to the wind farm, with SSE providing all future financing. The risk of peatslides is just one of the concerns held by local meteorologist and geologist Allen Fraser. He said: “Most of the access roads are floating roads on peat more than five metres deep, which will disrupt the natural drainage into the valleys, resulting in erosion and peatslides.
Herald 24th Aug 2019 read more »