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SSE Renewables approves £580m investment in Viking Wind Farm, allowing Shetland interconnector to go ahead

By John Davidson

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Artist's impression of Shetland's Viking Wind Farm.
Artist's impression of Shetland's Viking Wind Farm.

A £580 million wind farm on Shetland will ensure an interconnector with mainland Scotland is built after a final investment decision by SSE Renewables.

The 103-turbine Viking Wind Farm will be the largest onshore farm in the UK in terms of annual electricity output, expected to be around 1.9TWh – enough to power almost 500,000 homes.

The company says its decision will drive forward a green economic recovery in Shetland and play a crucial role in contributing towards the UK and Scotland’s net-zero targets.

In April, energy regulator Ofgem approved a 600MW subsea electricity transmission link to the islands, subject to evidence that the 443MW Shetland Viking Wind Farm project would go ahead. A final decision is expected in July.

Viking Wind Farm missed out on a Contracts for Difference deal in the 2019 energy subsidies round, but SSE Renewables says its decision to press ahead with the project will support the island’s, Scottish and wider UK supply chains during delivery, creating around 400 jobs at peak construction, with a further 35 full-time local operation and maintenance jobs throughout its life.

Scotland's energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “This is excellent news for Shetland, and for Scotland’s renewable energy and climate change ambitions. The Viking wind farm project is also a great symbol for the green recovery that the Scottish Government is determined to foster and encourage, as we move through and beyond the current coronavirus pandemic.

“This decision is of sufficient scale to act as the trigger to unlock the much-anticipated major investment in a high-voltage connection from Shetland to mainland Scotland, subject to a final decision by Ofgem which we expect shortly. It is essential that the community of Shetland benefits from this project and we look forward to further news of contracts being awarded to local businesses, as well as Scotland as a whole, during the construction phase.

“I am determined that this excellent outcome should be a starting point for similar investments and connections to unlock equivalent potential and benefits on the Western Isles and in Orkney.”

The wind farm project is wholly owned by SSE Renewables and is being developed with community partnership Viking Energy Shetland. An estimated £580 million will now be invested by SSE Renewables in the construction and delivery of the wind farm and associated infrastructure.

Artist's impression of Shetland's Viking Wind Farm.
Artist's impression of Shetland's Viking Wind Farm.

It adds, however, that its decision is conditional on the outcome of several industry code modifications which are currently in progress. These include the code changes which facilitate the contribution from the Distribution Network Operator, SHEPD, to the cost of the transmission link.

The company says giving the green light to Viking Wind Farm will help unlock investment in low-carbon infrastructure, delivering a vital economic and jobs boost to the island in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, while the interconnector will play a critical role in Shetland’s security of supply needs as well as giving scope for future renewable development.

Jim Smith, managing director of SSE Renewables, said: “Viking Wind Farm will help kickstart the green economic recovery, bringing much-needed low-carbon investment to Shetland.

“This project will bring benefits threefold for the island; harnessing its renewable potential, securing its electricity supplies for the long term, and helping decarbonise electricity.

“After more than a decade working closely with the community, we are delighted to reach this stage and be playing our part in Shetland’s net-zero future.”

Construction of the wind farm is expected to start later this summer and is expected to be completed in early 2024.

Artist's impression of Shetland's Viking Wind Farm.
Artist's impression of Shetland's Viking Wind Farm.

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