Shetland wind farm plans by Viking Energy approved by Scottish government

image captionProtesters argue the proposed wind farm development is too big

Controversial plans to build a 103-turbine wind farm on moorland in the centre of Shetland have been approved.

The wind farm, which will be the third biggest in Scotland, will be run by community company Viking Energy.

Protesters claimed the development was too big and would blight the landscape. Supporters said it would raise money for the islands, create jobs and help meet renewable energy targets.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has granted consent for the scheme.

Viking Energy is an equal partnership between a company set up to represent the interests of the Shetland community and power giant Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).

The 370MW wind farm is aimed at powering more than 175,000 homes despite Shetland having a population of about 22,000.

It is estimated the wind farm could bring about £30m annual income for the local community.

Last September Viking Energy scaled back its proposals, reducing the number of turbines from 150 to 127 and cutting back the ground area that would be covered.

The firm said it had listened to the community and made changes to address concerns.

In February, more than 300 people marched through the centre of Lerwick to protest at the plans.

Ministers have now withheld consent for 24 turbines.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: "This wind farm will bring enormous benefits to the people of Shetland."

Bill Manson, chairman of Viking Energy Partnership, said: "An enormous amount of effort and extensive consultation resulted in us creating a project which is comprehensive, thorough and designed with Shetland's unique environment in mind.

"This is good news for Shetland, good news for Scotland and good news for the fight against climate change."

'Unimaginable' impact

David Gardner, SSE's director of onshore renewables, said: "Shetland has a fantastic wind resource which means that the Viking Energy wind farm will be one of the most productive sites in the world."

However, RSPB Scotland expressed disappointment that the scale of the development was not reduced further.

And Stuart Brooks, chief executive of conservation charity the John Muir Trust, said: "This is quite possibility the largest industrial development in the history of Shetland.

"The scale of impact on the world renowned natural landscape of these islands is unimaginable."

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