SHETLAND Islands Council’s natural heritage officer believes the loss of peatland associated with the creation of a wind farm in Yell would be “contrary to current Scottish Government planning policy”.
It is the latest show of concern over the location of the proposed 23-turbine Energy Isles wind farm.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and NatureScot, formerly known as Scottish Natural Heritage, have been among those who have already objected to the plans.
A key concern is the location of the proposed wind farm – an area of blanket bog, a valuable carbon sink, in the north west of Yell.
SEPA said the blanket bog there is in excellent condition which is “actively sequestering carbon from the atmosphere (ie taking it out of the air and storing it in the peat)”.
The council’s natural heritage officer said they are “not convinced” that a proposed permanent loss of 23.4Ha of peatland is “adequately compensated for”.
The officer, which the council said is more of a role than a named individual, was writing in their capacity as a technical adviser in respect of the assessment work the planning service is carrying out.
A plan to restore around 70Ha of blanket bog has been put forward as part of the Energy Isles project.
As the generating capacity would be over 50MW, the final decision rests with the Scottish Government’s energy consents unit.
In a submission on the final plans for the wind farm, the natural heritage officer said: “My own view is (and remains) that the potential benefits of this development do not justify the loss of such a significant area of very high quality peatland of national importance that is acknowledged to be a nationally important environmental interest.
“I believe that to approve the loss of this peatland will be contrary to current Scottish Government planning policy.
“It will also undermine confidence in the stated aims of the ongoing Scottish Government programme of peatland restoration. I acknowledge the efforts made by the applicant but, even with the additional mitigations I have suggested above, I remain of the view that the significant effects on the qualities of this area cannot be substantially overcome.”
The officer also said in their conclusion that the “impact on the landscape in general, and on its identified features in particular, is very significantly adverse and will not be mitigated; this will result in substantial negative alteration of a very important landscape and its components in terms of its local and national importance”.
Speaking earlier this month, project manager for Energy Isles Shetland Charlotte Healey said the company is “reviewing submissions from consultees and the public” on the plans.
She maintained Energy Isles’ position that the wind farm would help towards national emissions targets.
“According to the Scottish Government carbon calculator, the wind farm will pay back all the carbon released during construction, including through the disturbance to peat, within two years and therefore provide net gains for 28 years,” Healey said.
“That means 28 years of the wind farm helping to reduce carbon emissions, tackle climate change and contributing to Scotland’s carbon net zero by 2045 target.”
Last year it was confirmed that Norwegian energy giant Statkraft would be the developer of the wind farm.
Another wind farm is proposed for Yell – Peel Energy’s Beaw Field development in the south of the island.