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Viking Energy is in effect an offshore wind farm

Map of northern Scotland

There is so much interesting material in this piece, The Shetland Islands: Renewables and Corporate Interests, published by the Renewable Energy Foundation in December 2020. I somehow missed it at that time. It presents figures for the estimated costs for the Viking Energy wind farm in a way I can understand. The article addresses so many interesting questions which many in Shetland have been asking and speaking about since the group Sustainable Shetland was formed in 2008.

It makes the point, which somehow I haven't seen sufficiently emphasised, that the Viking project " in effect an offshore wind farm that happens to be located on land. Thus, it should cover transmission costs to the nearest point on the UK mainland on the same basis as other offshore wind projects. On this basis, the net value of power at Caithness is £15/MWh while the cost of producing and delivering power to Caithness is £82/MWh. Even allowing for some error in the cost estimates described above it is highly unlikely that this project is a cost-effective way of meeting power demand in the GB market."

"Now, with the willing involvement of the Shetland Islands Council, the Scottish Government and the Ofgem (the UK’s energy regulator), the Shetland Islands are being converted into what will to many seem like a private colony operated by the power company SSE." The piece rightly states that the role of the Scottish Government is no surprise, because SSE is the largest company based in Scotland and has been consistently supported by the Scottish Government. It raises the important question: Why should the Shetland Islands Council or Ofgem facilitate this project? It comprises the construction of a large onshore wind farm with a capacity of 447 MW, and a 260 km largely undersea transmission cable with a capacity of 600 MW from Kergord in Shetland to Noss Head, Caithness in the north of mainland Scotland. It is this transmission cable which forms the key to understanding this development as an offshore wind farm that just happens to be located on an island.

In addition to considering the cost of transmission and construction, it looks at other related points, too:

  • the main economic benefit will be to SSEN Transmission with only estimated £220 per year to each Shetlander;

  • the Viking project is a very expensive way to reduce emission or meet the national power demand;

  • conflict of interests;

  • the fact that Shetland is at the mercy of decisions driven by SSE, which are made far away and without local knowledge;

  • contrary to claims, the Viking Energy Wind Farm is not for the good of the local economy;

  • the SNP administration in Edinburgh has failed to act on EU directives requiring “unbundling” of generation, transmission and distribution to avoid the conflicts of interest currently in Scotland;

  • Scotland gains little economic benefit.


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