Renewables industry shows interest in Sullom Voe

Vessels berthed at Sullom Voe
Vessels berthed at Sullom Voe

Sectors such as renewable energy, shellfish, finish and seaweed farming have shown interest in using Sullom Voe harbour in Shetland.

Moves to potentially open up the site for development, widening its appeal beyond the oil and gas industry, could see the current blanket ban on aquaculture and other sectors lifted.

Public consultation events were held earlier this year to gather local views on the future of the harbour area, which includes Yell Sound and stretches from Brae up to past North Roe.

A report from C2W Consulting included in papers for this week’s meeting of Shetland Islands Council (SIC) harbour board said there were more than 100 responses to the consultation.

These will help to inform a masterplan for the area, which will be drawn up by the council and experts from the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway.

More than two-thirds (about 70%) of consultation respondents were “willing to discuss possible development” in the area, with the rest opposed to the idea.

Around a third said the exclusion zone should continue as it had resulted in a largely unspoilt area without development that was environmentally intact.

The report said interest had been expressed in two areas of the harbour for renewable energy.

Nova Innovation already has an array of tidal energy turbines in Bluemull Sound between Yell and Unst, while there has previous been interest in Yell Sound due to its strong tides.

It has long been known that shellfish and salmon farmers are also keen on Sullom Voe harbour.

There is also interest from a seaweed farmer, with the report saying plants would be grown for biomass energy as well as products like pharmaceuticals.

Investment in seaweed production could start with a trial site before scaling up to a £1 million farm, C2W Consulting added.

But the report also warned that “many respondents “to the consultation were concerned about the potential to displace jobs by allowing development in the harbour area.

It added: “There are significant constraints as to where, and what type of development would be welcome.”

SIC’s ports and harbours team contributed to the consultation process only to give its advice on where any development could interfere with safe navigation tanker traffic into Sullom Voe oil terminal.

Councillors recently approved plans to rebuild Toft Pier, which sits near the edge of the harbour area. There are hopes that fish landings will increase once the pier is redeveloped.

C2W Consulting said talks were taking place with SIC to ensure “ease of transport” for ferries in the harbour area but it was “currently manageable”.