Sustainable Shetland

We would like to see renewable energy projects which are sustainable. Projects which are fit for scale. Projects which do not harm our environment or put at great risk community funds.

Sustainable development would be projects and initiatives which provide benefit to the current generation without jeopardising future generations.

Not everything can be measured in financial terms. Not everything of value comes with a price tag.

The unspoilt nature of Shetland landscape. The eco-diversity of plant, bird, animal and fish species. Our upland and hill areas relatively unchanged for hundreds of years. These are the things at risk. These are some of the things which make Shetland special. Deplete these elements and you deplete the very things which make people come to Shetland to visit or live. Damage your own environment and you damage the very thing which make Shetland so distinctive.

To hear some Viking Energy director comments you would think that building roads, quarries, foundations, and giant turbines was the best way to help Shetland nature.

We disagree.

What else could be done?

It is not a case of giant wind farm or nothing.

Plans by Shetland Heat Energy and Power for a 3 turbine wind-to-heat system in Lerwick could be a good example of developing renewable capacity in a sensible way. The idea is that 3 large turbines on the edge of Lerwick would provide the additional energy to heat the Lerwick district heating system. Power being stored as hot water in large underground tanks. As well as acting as a balanced energy storage system, it helps to provide affordable heat to domestic, public and commercial premises in Lerwick.

There could be a number of direct and real benefits

  • It combats fuel poverty by providing an affordable form of heat compared to domestic oil or electric systems
  • It makes a real and measurable reduction in fossil fuel use - something very difficult to prove for wind-power displacing fossil fuel electrical generation
  • It doesn't need a mega expensive interconnector to work
  • The generation of power for local use is not dependant on subsidised transmission charges to the national grid
  • It directly deduces the amount of diesel used in the booster station when there is insufficient rubbish to burn in the waste-to-heat incinerator

Obviously Lerwick has a relatively concentrated population. But the concept behind the idea is worth considering for other communities.

For example, where you have a school, leisure centre or care home, reasonably compact housing, you could have the ideal location for a local renewable energy project. Wind to heat, wind to storage systems being amongst the potential technologies. It means big capital costs up front, but long term savings through lower energy costs. Symbister, Mid Yell, Brae, Baltasound, Walls, Scalloway and Sandwick being examples of such communities.

Where a community can decide and control its own development, you are more likely to get cooperation, goodwill and sensible solutions. Where projects are forced on a community by a minority, you are more likely to get resentment and opposition, with no follow through support for more sustainable initiatives.

For a more sustainable Shetland, we believe that bottom up, genuine community initiatives are part of the solution. Renewable energy production is just one element of a sustainable society.

The trouble with the Viking Energy project is that it offers itself as the one and only option. Some supporters (but not all) argue that if we build the wind farm we will have "done our bit" and no other contribution to sustainability or dealing with climate change is necessary. If we as a community create with one hand (say develop renewables) whilst destroying with the other (say loss of biodiversity, same waste and over consumption), we really are no further forward, but have only created the illusion of doing something positive.

Why don't you campaign for positive things?

Sustainable Shetland would love to do that!

But when faced with the real and immediate dangers (financial and environmental) posed by the Viking Windfarm, we believe we should devote our time and energy to preventing further unnecessary damage.

We have never been an "anti-windfarm group", describing us as such is like describing a healthy eating campaign as "anti-food ". As we have said many times before, we oppose the Viking wind farm, but have no fundamental opposition to wind power as a technology. You will notice that the site is not covered in links or references to groups who are "anti-windfarm". That is because we do not necessarily share the views or objectives of some of these groups. The argument that "all windfarms are good and should be supported" is just as illogical as the "all windfarms are bad" argument.