Work starts on Europe’s biggest wind farm

Construction work has started on the 322MW Whitelee wind farm near Glasgow, set to become Europe's biggest onshore wind power source.

Plans for the £300m project were announced as early as 2001 but were caught up in the planning system for five years due to concerns over interference with radar at nearby Glasgow airport (see related story).

The problem was resolved when Scottish Power, the electricity supplier behind the project, agreed to provide a new radar mast – and cover its significant cost.

“What took time was getting a solution that was agreeable to BA and CA (the Civil Aviation Authority), and then getting that solution through a stringent safety process,” a spokesman for Scottish Power told edie.

“We were looking at different types of solution like stealth technology, paint for the turbines or software solutions. It was a long process,” he said.

While radar interference is not the major concern for most wind farm projects, several years’ delays are not uncommon, he said.

Objections from local authorities and subsequent public enquiries or a lack of grid connection are the major reasons for hold-ups.

“It’s frustrating that we will have consented projects ready to go ahead but we can’t connect them to the grid,” said the spokesman.

As for objections from local authorities, the reasons for them were not always clear, he said: “A good example is a place called Green Knowes in Perthshire. This is a perfectly good project that was approved by planning officials but was rejected by the council for reasons that we didn’t rightfully understand.”

Despite the delay, the company considers the Whitelee project a success story.

“Today is a landmark. Plainly we have started working on Whitelee, it will be the biggest in Europe and on various levels it will make a difference,” said the spokesman.

As the first large wind farm to be built so close to a city, Whitelee will serve educational purposes as well as providing enough green electricity to power a city the size of central Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Scottish Power hopes to reach out to local people and tourist with a visitors’ centre and facilities for schoolchildren that will convey the renewables message to the public.

Industry secretary Alistair Darling said at a ceremony to mark the start of construction: “Scotland has long been the UK’s powerhouse and is now establishing itself in the vanguard on renewables.

“16% of Scotland’s electricity already comes from these sources, compared to 4% for the UK as a whole, and Whitelee will save a further 250,000 tonnes of harmful CO2 every year.”

ScottishPower Chief Executive, Philip Bowman said: “As Europe’s largest onshore wind farm, Whitelee represents a great step forward for the UK in tackling climate change, and is crucial to meeting the Government’s targets for green energy.

“Of course, Whitelee is not the end of the story. If we are to deliver more clean energy to people’s homes, we have really got to keep up the momentum on the other big onshore wind farms in Scotland which are currently in planning”.

Goska Romanowicz

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