Viking invasion? Cancer patient fears peaceful life will be shattered by £580mring of turbines
Evelyn and Donnie Morrison’s croft has been in the family for more than 200 years.
But now they say their home in Shetland’s Weisdale Valley will be spoiled by the sight of 155 metre-high wind turbines all around them – and they believe this will also make the house nearly impossible to sell.
The massive turbines are among 103 planned for the Viking Energy wind farm, which will be the UK’S largest onshore facility of its kind when it is completed in 2024.
Evelyn, 67, said: “We moved here from further down the valley 30 years ago, as I was unwell from a brain tumour and work on the house didn’t get going until about 2008. At that point we were wondering whether to continue with the move as the wind farm was starting to become an issue.
“My brain tumour is inoperable and I live with complications and pain so living in peace and quiet was perfect. But, since Shetland Islands Council gave permission for the wind farm, we’ve had nothing but uncertainty and stress.
There will be no escape for us – who will want to live here if we decide to try to sell?”
Gradually the valley is being changed. The bulldozers have rolled in, as foundations and access roads that will carry the giant turbines are built.
The Weisdale Valley wind farm is a controversial subject in Shetland, with critics questioning why the plans were not tested at a public inquiry. Whalsay’s community council has called for an independent investigation.
One resident, Michelle Sandison, 40, said: “Ten thousand households will have their lives blighted to provide energy for half-a-million households on the mainland.”
Steven Coutts, Shetland Islands Council leader, said there had been “missed opportunities” like not triggering a public inquiry about the project when it was first mooted more than a decade ago.
“While I do not know if that would have changed the decision to grant consent, the lack of that structured inquiry has clearly damaged community relations,” he explained. “As the community is aware, large-scale projects are not determined by the council, but by Scottish ministers. I do find it extremely regrettable that decisions of such importance are not ours to take.”
Helen Moncrieff, of the local RSPB, fears the wind farm will pose a threat to birds and other wildlife.
She said: “We recognise that low-carbon renewable energy has an essential role in tackling the climate emergency we face. However, developments must be located and designed to avoid harming our most important places for wildlife.
“We objected to the Viking Energy wind farm in 2009 and again in 2018. This was because we considered that it would pose an unacceptable risk to several species of birds.”
SSE Renewables, however, said the £580 million investment would make a significant contribution to Scotland’s green economic recovery. The company said: “Viking is essential to underpin the new Shetland link to the National Grid and will unlock its wider renewable energy potential and help deliver Shetland’s future security of electricity supply. It is expected that over 400 jobs will be created during construction.
“Viking also expects to create around 35 direct new jobs during
the operational lifetime of the wind farm. Viking is committed to a community benefit fund of around £57m over the lifetime of the project.”
On the Morrisons’ croft, the energy giant said: “SSE Renewables has a long track record of being a responsible developer and we do everything necessary to ensure that our developments, including Viking Wind Farm, are delivered sensitively and to the highest standards, with strict adherence to consent conditions.
“Viking Wind Farm is committed to being a responsible neighbour, serving as an integral part of the community, during construction and for years to come.”
We have had nothing but stress, uncertainty and worry and there will be no escape
Evelyn Morrison with husband Donnie on their Shetland croft, top, and how the Viking Energy wind farm will look, above