Work begins near Glasgow on biggest windfarm in Europe

A A A

After a five year-battle for planning approval, developers have started work on Europe's biggest onshore wind farm - a 140-turbine creation at the heart of Scotland's drive to become the "Saudi Arabia" of renewable energy.

The 140 turbines of the £300m Whitelee wind farm, which will be built in moorland and forest near East Kilbride, south of Glasgow, will provide enough electricity to power 200,000 homes. Though the prospect of generating 322 megawatts of energy - enough to power all of Glasgow - has seen off concerns about environmental impact, supporters of onshore wind energy in the UK admit that a project of its ilk may never secure planning permission again.

Whitelee will supply one-eighth of the capacity needed to meet the Scottish Executive's ambitious target of generating 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Westminster has been less ambitious about renewable targets, setting a 10 per cent UK target for 2020, towards which Whitelee will also contribute 2.4 per cent of the capacity. The station's developer, Scottish Power, estimates that it will also prevent the emission of 650,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

The Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling said Scotland had long been the UK's "powerhouse" and was establishing itself as the vanguard on renewables. Around 16 per cent of Scotland's electricity already comes from these sources, compared to 4 per cent for the UK as a whole.

Plans for Whitelee have not progressed smoothly. Officials at Glasgow Aiport initially opposed the project because of concerns that the spinning rotors might confuse the airport's radar. As a result of the objection, Scottish Power agreed to build a £5m radar installation 30 miles away in Kincardine, on the site of a former power station. Scottish National Heritage also expressed concerns about the potential impact on black grouse and liverwort populations. Other groups were unhappy about the site's visibility: it can be seen from a distance of 10 miles.

But the Scottish Executive's faith in such projects is enabling the nation's developers to succeed where English wind farm developers, in areas such as Cumbria where the 27-turbine Whinnash scheme was rejected seven months ago, have failed. Whitelee will take three years to complete and will be three times the size of the UK's current biggest wind farm, at Blacklaw in South Lanarkshire.

The start of work at Whitelee coincides with a new period of Government consultation over which renewable emergy forms should be used to enable the UK to hit its 20 per cent target. Mr Darling launched the consultation process at Whitelee, where he underlined the fact that more energy would have to come from wind, wave, tidal and biomass technologies.

Scottish Power has voiced fears that funding for onshore schemes, unpopular among some environmentalists, may be reduced at the expense of untested forms of renewable energy, such as marine or solar power. The British Wind Energy Association estimates that the UK's potential offshore resource amounts to three times the annual UK energy consumption.

Wind farms

By Ian Herbert and Stephen Habberley

* Whitelee might be big but it's nothing compared with the next wind power giant Scotland is planning near Stornoway on the island of Lewis. This would be the world's largest farm with 200 wind turbines, each 120m tall. The electricity generated would be "exported" via a 350-mile under-sea cable.

There are also plans for a London Array farm in the Thames estuary: 1,000 megawatts of electricity from 270 turbines, powering 750,000 homes.

The Danes lead the European industry, though their farms are more modest than those in Scotland. The biggest is Horns Rev, near Jutland, with 80 turbines supplying enough power for 150,000 homes.

Britain's biggest wind farm before Whitelee is Hadyard Hill, in South Ayrshire, with enough output to supply 60,000 homes. England's largest is in Barrow (30 turbines) generating enough energy for 50,000 homes.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own