New chairman of Viking Energy Shetland provides project update

Published on February 18th 2013

Viking Energy expects the UK's biggest community-shared wind farm to begin exporting green power and earning profit for Shetland in late 2018.

The new chairman of the Shetland-owned half of the venture, Alan Bryce, said today it was "business as usual" with pre-development preparations well under way. These will be followed in due course by project construction to meet the grid connection date less than six years away.

Mr Bryce, a former managing director of Scottish Power's energy networks, joined the team in December as chairman of Viking Energy Shetland (VES), which is 90 per cent owned by Shetland Charitable Trust.

VES is in a 50-50 partnership with SSE to build the £700 million wind farm which has consent for 103 turbines in the Central Mainland and a maximum rated capacity of 457 megawatts.

Mr Bryce said updated income projections show that the charitable trust could achieve a return of around £20 million a year for community funds if it proceeds with its investment in the wind farm. The new figure reflects the reduced earning potential due to last year's deletion by the Scottish government of 24 turbines from Viking's application for 127 turbines.

In addition to the trust's income, Viking expects another £6 million a year to be paid to crofters and landowners while £5 million could be paid out for services and in wages to the permanent workforce of around 30 people.

The three-year construction period from 2016 is expected to require an average of 140 workers.

Viking Energy Shetland's head of development Aaron Priest said this was "an exciting time" for the local team with Mr Bryce and the other two new directors Elsbeth Johnson and Joe Philipsz now closely involved following their appointment in December.

Mr Priest paid tribute to the previous board members, Bill Manson, Caroline Miller and Alastair Cooper, for "a sterling effort in bringing the project to its current advanced stage of development".

Mr Priest said: "The new board's responsibility will be to ensure that the project continues to move steadily forward from its current consented status, through a Final Investment Decision (FID) and, thereafter, into construction and operation."

The new date of November 2018 for connection to the National Grid, rather than the previously envisaged "switch on" in December 2017, has meant some rescheduling of Viking's work programme, Mr Priest said, notably in delaying some of the detailed ground investigations until next year.

But work continues apace in the local office and within SSE. It includes detailed engineering design, equipment selection, financial modelling and finance options, liaison with stakeholders, finalising land agreements, lobbying on transmission costs and delivery of the grid connection.

The team will also continue to be involved in the ongoing court case which seeks to challenge the consent granted to Viking Energy 10 months ago by the Scottish government.

Viking expects Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission's 600MW interconnector cable from Shetland will make landfall in Caithness in preference to previous proposals which would have seen a longer subsea route to either an offshore hub at the Beatrice oilfield or straight to Banffshire.

Mr Bryce said connecting Shetland to the National Grid would "lay the foundations" for development in the islands of future industries in wave and tidal power and possibly offshore wind.

He said the wind farm was expected to produce "world class" output levels averaging around 44 per cent of maximum yearly capacity, significantly greater than the 27 per cent achieved by UK onshore wind farms and superior even to existing UK offshore wind farms which average of around 37 per cent, according to UK government statistics.

Meanwhile, two new employees have been taken on at Viking's office at the North Ness in Lerwick. Sharon Powell joins as administration officer while community liaison officer John Robertson has been in post since the start of this year.

The other employees are Mr Priest, project information officer David Thomson and adviser Angus Ward.

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