Europe's largest on-shore wind farm turned on

Posted: 20 May 2009

The final phase of Europe's largest onshore wind farm was turned on in Scotland today. The 322-megawatt (MW), 140-turbine Whitelee wind farm, which is already powerful enough to provide to supply the needs of nearby Glasgow, is now set to grow by another third.

Positioned 370 metres (1200 feet) above sea level, the wind farm has over half a million people living within a 30-km radius, and is one of the first big wind farms to be built close to a large population centre. The developer, Scottish Power Renewables, is owned by Spanish energy giant Iberdrola.

Whitelee wind farm, Scotland
Whitelee wind farm, Scotland
Whitelee wind farm, Scotland, already Europe's largest, is expected to expand by a further third. Credit: Iberdrola
The project, is expected to expand by more than a third as part of a major green energy initiative by Scottish ministers. Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, announced today that the wind farm had been given permission to increase its capacity to 452MW.

The disclosure came as controversial plans for an even larger scheme, to build a vast community-owned 150 turbine, 540MW scheme on Shetland, were lodged with the Scottish government.

Both projects would significantly boost the first minister's plans for half of all Scotland's electricity to come from green sources by 2020. The interim target - to generate 31 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2011 - has already been surpassed, officials said.

Removing barriers

Commenting on the official opening of Whitelee Wind Farm, Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins said it was "an exciting step towards a greener future - it will slash carbon emissions and generate enough clean, safe power for over 180,000 homes.

"The UK has the best wind resource in Europe, but more must be done to harness this potential, create thousands of new green jobs and help make the UK a world leader in creating a low-carbon economy."

Friends of the Earth is calling on UK Ministers to urgently tackle the barriers to green energy development. It pointed out that Brtain's only wind turbine manufacturer is considering closing two of its UK plants, putting over 600 jobs at risk.

It called for a green bank - to provide affordable finance to the renewable energy industry and the development of a new offshore super grid - to tap into UK's vast offshore renewable resources. This should be connecting UK into a bigger European low-carbon energy network.

FOE also wants to see investment in a new smart grid that would balance the variable energy generated from renewable sources and intelligently manage the UK's demand for power.

Sources: Renewable Energy World, The Guardian and FOE