How not to go green: The Shetland wind farms

3 mins read

In the midst of a rapidly escalating ecological crisis, the sourcing of renewable energy has taken centre stage in the debate around tackling climate change.

Scotland has taken a leading role in creating cleaner energy infrastructure, to the point that according to Renewable Scotland, just shy of 80 per cent of the country’s green energy is sourced from wind generated power.

The Scottish Government has set their sights on the location for their next big green energy project. Located in the middle of the North Sea, the Shetland Islands became the host of the Viking Energy wind farm, which has constructed 103 onshore wind turbines to power 475,000 homes across the mainland. 

Construction of wind turbine. Image credit: Viking Energy

While Scotland should be praised for their sustained commitment to generating clean energy, this new project has sparked anger among Shetland’s residents, citing concerns that the wind farm and its construction is doing detrimental damage to their local ecosystem. 

Wildlife takes the hit from green energy projects

With all of the turbines now constructed, the environmental damage has begun to rear its ugly head. A damning report by the Shetland Islands Council linked the disappearance of the Burn of Lunklet’s trout population to runoff from excavation taking place upstream.

Damage from the construction has only persisted as the project progressed. Last year, Viking Energy’s failure to follow correct procedures when digging a cable trench resulted in a 72-meter-long landslide, causing damage to the local ecosystem that was easily preventable.

Arctic skua. Image credit: Bird Spot

The RSPB have also expressed concern for several bird species present on the island. The arctic skua population was reduced to just 10 per cent of its population from 2021. The species is among several that were already left in dwindling numbers by last year’s avian flu outbreak.

The Viking Energy project will be remembered by most locals as a case study of how not to ‘go green.’ The failure of the project managers to listen to environmental concerns has only burdened Shetland’s already fragile ecosystem with a new slew of problems that future generations of Shetland residents will inherit.

This is not even to mention the long-term affect this will have on one of the economic lifelines of the islands: tourism. With the decline of bird populations, as well as the industrial development of wild spaces, what will be left for tourists to bother see?

Featured image credit: Viking Energy

Finn Rivett
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