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Environmental advisory group convened

July 21st 2020
Red-throated divers have been monitored by Viking Energy over 15 years

SWEAG’s role is to oversee the comprehensive programme of conservation and monitoring measures, including the Habitat Management Plan (HMP), to be implemented by Viking Energy during the lifetime of the wind farm.

The group is independent of Viking Energy and contains specialists with a detailed knowledge of the Shetland environment, particularly in the fields of peat and bird conservation.

The HMP will see restoration of 260 hectares of eroding peat bog and a raft of carefully planned measures to boost the breeding success of key bird species, including red-throated diver, merlin and whimbrel. An HMP officer will help with the works, which are due to get under way shortly.

The group already has representatives from Scottish Natural Heritage and its Peatland Action team, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Shetland Islands Council’s natural heritage team and the RSPB. Invitations to other parties have also been suggested by the group

Shetland North councillor Alastair Cooper brings to the group his experience from sitting on the Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group (SOTEAG), which served as the inspiration for the creation of SWEAG.

A process is in motion to engage representation from academia to ensure learnings from the group can be shared with a wider body of interested parties and that experience from such parties can be brought back into the group.

During the first meeting on 7th July, illustrated presentations were made to the group by two of the consultants working on implementing the HMP:

  • Atlantic Ecology has been monitoring bird populations around the wind farm site since 2005, building an unparalleled knowledge of the key species and how their numbers might be enhanced;
  • Plantecol has produced a focussed plan for implementing the HMP with early works set to get under way in the coming months.

SWEAG will publish a report each year detailing the environmental works carried out and setting out the latest information on the wellbeing of birds and other wildlife within the wind farm area.

The group will meet a second time in the coming months and will stage site visits to monitor the success of the HMP works on the ground.