Written by Hans J Marter

The operator of the oil industry airport at Scatsta has objected to a
proposed wind farm development in the nearby island of Yell on the grounds
of aircraft safety and potential operational impacts.

Serco says the Beaw Field wind farm, which would have 17 145-metre high
turbines, could be visible on Scatsta’s radar since they are to be built
beneath the airport’s main inbound and outbound route.

Scatsta airport handles between 14,000 and 20,000 aircraft movements per
year, both fixed wing planes and helicopters, and is one of the main
employers in the north of Shetland.

The company’s objection is supported by oil company BP, the operator of the
nearby Sullom Voe Terminal, which is licensed by the Civil Aviation
Authority to use Scatsta Airport.

However, Manchester-based wind farm developer Peel Energy has rejected the
airport’s concern and commissioned a counter report by chartered engineer
Mike Watson of Pager Power Ltd. The company has been undertaking wind farm
aeronautical and radar impact assessments since 2002.

In his report, Watson said there was no reason to refuse the planning
application on aviation grounds because the development “falls entirely
outside the safeguarded area shown on the airport’s own safeguarding map”.

Earlier this year Peel Energy lodged a Section 36 application to the Energy
Consents Unit, in Glasgow, to build the 70MW wind farm at the south end of
Yell, around eight miles to the northeast of Scatsta Airport.

The proposed development – ultimately dependent on an interconnector being
built to link Shetland to the national power grid – is widely supported by
the Yell community.

In Scatsta’s letter of objection, airport manager John Thorne said the
aerodrome was strategically located adjacent to both the Sullom Voe
Terminal and newly-built Shetland Gas Plant and played a “vital role” in
the UK government’s drive to maximise oil and gas recovery.

As such Serco was concerned that the development could have an adverse
impact on the airport’s operability.

“The development is located in close proximity to Scatsta airport in a key
area of airspace beneath the main inbound approach and outbound route to
and from Scatsta airport,” he wrote.

“In its proposed location, the development may have a significant impact on
the final approach track and climb out, requiring amendment to the
instrument flight procedures (IFP).

“Serco is concerned that 17 turbines with a maximum height of 145 metres
would be visible to Scatsta airport radar and generate unwanted returns
(clutter) on air traffic control display screens with the potential to mask
aircraft in the vicinity of the development.

“Serco is specifically concerned that the development may adversely affect
communication with fixed wing and rotary aircraft travelling on this flight

But Watson said the need to implement changes to the airport’s instrument
flight procedures has long been acknowledged and work to implement these
was already under way.

He said: “I have considered the main concerns raised in Serco’s objection
letter and have not identified and valid reason for refusing this application.

“There will be a requirement for mitigation and it would be prudent to
ensure, perhaps using a planning condition, that mitigation is implemented
prior to erection of the wind turbines in the event that planning
permission is granted.”

Anti-Viking campaign group Sustainable Shetland has also objected to the
Yell proposal voicing concern over the “cumulative effect” of large wind
farm developments in Shetland – quoting a recent Scottish government policy
paper that envisaged 900MW of onshore wind farms in Shetland by 2030.

Scottish Natural Heritage and the RSPB have, meanwhile, put forward
proposals to mitigate the possible impact of individual turbines on the
breeding population of red-throated divers and merlin.

Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee is likely to discuss the wind
farm proposal at its meeting on 27 September.

The committee is a statutory consultee and is required to make a
recommendation to the Energy Consents Unit.

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