Viking (Shetland) proposed wind farm

Tagged with: Casework status: Closed Casework type: Energy
Pink footed geese Anser brachyrhyncus, in flight past wind turbines, Near Diepholz, Lower Saxony, Germany,

Overview

Although the Scottish Government has granted consent for this wind farm, we acknowledge the impacts on bird populations will be smaller compared to the original proposals.

The Scottish Government has consented 103 turbines at this site.

Although the main reason for deletion of the other 24 turbines applied for was to avoid endangering flights at nearby Scatsa Airport, impacts on bird populations and habitats will also be reduced by this limitation on the development. 

Map

Why is it worth fighting for?

Although this large site is undesignated, it holds large numbers of many important species.

Many of the lochs hold breeding red-throated divers which commute to the sea to fish. 45 per cent of Shetland's merlins nest here and there are widespread breeding golden plovers, lapwings, curlews, snipes and dunlins.

Two of Shetland's special birds – whimbrel and Arctic skua – which are in steep, recent decline also breed here and any additional impact is of concern. Numbers of great skua on Shetland are of international importance and the species is widespread on the site.

As well as being important for birds, much of the site is covered in actively-forming blanket bog, which is listed as a priority habitat under Annex 1 of the EU Habitats Directive.

Merlin male perched on moss covered vantage point

Our position

Shetland is not connected to the national grid so, if power is to be exported, a certain minimum threshold of windfarm development is needed to make economic the necessary transmission line.

Shetland Islands Council wishes to capitalise on the area's particularly windy environment to replace its diminishing oil revenues.

Although this large site is undesignated for its nature conservation interest, we have been in consultation with the applicant for several years to try to ensure that any adverse impacts on important bird species are understood and minimised in any proposals. This has involved several iterations of turbine and track layout to minimise adverse impacts on key bird species. We were not satisfied that the residual impacts on several birds, arising from collision with turbines or displacement from the development, were acceptable.

We also had concerns about damage to blanket bog habitat, the proposed means of dealing with excavated peat and the carbon budget of the development and hence we objected to the original application. We continued to work with Viking Energy to seek a reduction in adverse environmental impacts and suitable, compensatory habitat management should the development be consented. The impacts predicted to arise from the revised application were still considered unacceptable and we formally objected.

Red-throated diver, adult swimming, Shetland Isles

Outcome

We are disappointed at the Scottish Government's decision to consent this application and think more should have been done to reduce impacts on rare birds like whimbrel. However, we acknowledge that the consented application will be much less damaging to important bird populations and habitats than the original proposals. 

We look forward to working with Scottish Ministers and the developers to ensure that, if development happens, impacts on whimbrel and other wildlife can be made acceptable and that habitat management work to compensate for residual, adverse impacts is effective.

Timeline

  • February 2015
    The Supreme Court rejects an appeal by a third party against the decision of the Inner House. 
  • 9 July 2014
    An appeal by Scottish Ministers against the September 2013 ruling to quash the Ministers’ decision is successful at the Inner House of the Court of Session 
  • 24 September 2013
    A legal challenge by a third party to the decision is successful in the Outer House of the Court of Session, resulting in the Scottish Ministers’ decision being quashed 
  • 4 April 2012
    Scottish Government approve plans for a 103-turbine wind farm, the third biggest in Scotland
  • November 2010
    We object to the revised application
  • August 2009 and subsequently
    We met with the applicant and continued to encourage mitigation of adverse impacts through turbine removal and relocation
  • July 2009
    We object to the application
  • March 2008
    We respond to Scoping Consultation highlighting breeding bird importance of site
  • March 2006
    We meet with the applicant to discuss proposals and suggest issues requiring investigation