SSE is set to build Britain’s biggest onshore wind farm, the 443MW Viking project on Shetland.
At peak output, Viking’s 103 turbines will generate around 1.9TWh a year. A projected load factor of 48 per cent makes it Britain’s most productive farm, as well as its biggest, say the developers.
Long delayed in Scotland’s courts, Viking won Ofgem’s approval earlier this year, on condition that SSE can build the islands’ first connector to the mainland. Ofgem has indicated its ‘minded-to’ approval for the 600MW link, and is expected to confirm its view in July.
SSE insisted today’s investment depends on code changes still being negotiated. Critical are those deciding how much of the connector’s cost will be borne by SHEPD, the DNO serving the islands.
In January SSE Renewables submitted its Needs Case for the link to the regulator under RIIO-2 protocols.
Preliminary onshore construction has begun, today’s statement confirms.
The developers are targeting April 2024 for full commissioning of the turbines and the 120-mile link. Gas-fired generation from the islands’ sole station at Lerwick is due to be scaled back from 2025. Decarbonising the town’s servicing of offshore oil and gas operations will be an added benefit.
SSE Renewables managing director, Jim Smith, said: “Viking will help kickstart the green economic recovery, bringing much needed low-carbon investment to Shetland. In doing so, it will … help resolve longstanding security of supply issues on the island”.
Scotland’s energy minister Paul Whitehouse said it is “essential” that Shetland’s community benefits from the project:
“We look forward to further news of contracts being awarded to local businesses, as well as Scotland as a whole, during the construction phase,” he stated.
SSE announced the decision as part of a raft of green investment measures. The company has committed to spend £7bn on renewables and infrastructure that enables decarbonisation over the next five years.