Sitting at the top of Scotland with 22,000 inhabitants, Shetland receives more than its share of wind, making its small wind farm of 5 turbines, including Betsy, a 660kw turbine believed to be the world’s most efficient wind turbine in existence, very well placed.
Betsy reaches outputs of between 52 and 59% of the potential maximum output for the turbine; one reason why it is difficult to argue against the effectiveness of a full scale wind farm were it to be approved and built on Shetland. Not everybody is happy with the proposals for the Viking wind farm however. Although the proposed development could provide 20% of the energy needed to power Scotland, islanders have expressed concern about the detrimental effect the building of the site, including access roads and quarries, would have on the island’s environment.
The chairman of Sustainable Shetland, Billy Fox, expressed his concern about the site,
“There’s no denying the wind energy efficiency factor on Shetland is higher than anywhere else in the UK, but it all comes down to scale. This will have a huge effect on the landscape. This isn’t a nimby situation. We’re not against renewables per se, but we want to see them fit for scale, fit for purpose.”
Anybody who has seen Age of Stupid may be reminded by those words, almost like an echo, from one of the people opposing the building of the wind turbine at the end of the film. Shetland has been built on money generated from oil extraction and despite its prime location for harnessing the clean green energy from the wind, diesel is shipped in to run the island’s power station. However there is the argument that if it was just about the money, all islanders would be in support of the wind farm as it would generate an estimated £37 million in revenue for the island.
The concern for some opposing the site is that the development would mean the destruction of large areas of Shetland’s peat bogs, which in themselves are responsible for locking away huge amounts of carbon as a carbon sink. So would justifying the building of the wind farm by being able to generate renewable energy really be acceptable when on the other hand habitats and crucial carbon sinks are being destroyed?