It promises to make greater Glasgow Europe’s greenest urban area within two years – guilt-free electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes blowin’ in the wind.
Now, just two months before about 15 miles of skyline over Scotland’s most densely populated region is transformed for a generation, ScottishPower has outlined its timetable for the erection of 140 wind turbines on Glasgow’s southern boundaries.
The utility giant has also released details of when swathes of four local authority areas will come online with their domestic electricity generated by Whitelee, the largest on-shore wind farm in Europe. By next spring whole sections of East Renfrewshire will be powered by 12 Whitelee turbines, with power to spare.
Within six months, this will spread to include parts of East Ayrshire, followed by East Kilbride, Cambuslang and Strathaven in South Lanarkshire in spring 2009.
By the time the final phase is completed by summer of 2009 the entire south side of Glasgow will be receiving its electricity from Whitelee, with the Castlemilk scheme the first area to come online.
Each turbine can generate a maximum of 4.7 MW of electricity, enough to power about 2500 homes. According to ScottishPower, the project will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 650,000 tonnes a year, equivalent to the output of around 240,000 cars.
Over the next two months, ScottishPower will embark on an awareness campaign to ensure the changed horizon comes as no surprise to the 1.5m people who will see it daily.
The erection of the first turbine in mid-November comes almost six years after the planning application for the £300m scheme was submitted. It received consent in April 2006, attracting only 40 letters of objection, considerably fewer than much smaller schemes elsewhere in Scotland.
Its supporters claim this is testimony to the fact that there is almost unanimous support for it among those whose power it will generate.
Construction on the infrastructure over 33 sq miles has been going on since last October, with more than 100 miles of tracks laid to enable the work to be carried out on vast stretches of moorland.
The erection of each turbine takes just a day, but getting them to Eaglesham Moor is somewhat trickier.
Made by Siemens in Denmark, they will be shipped to the King George V docks near Renfrew before being driven to the site.
But, although each will arrive in eight parts, the scale of the turbines means traffic management plans for the transportation have to be put in place, with the components brought to site between 10pm and 4am.
Health and safety regulations could, however, create delays as the turbines cannot be erected in wind speed above 10 metres per second. ScottishPower expects the turbines to go up at an average rate of two a week.
ScottishPower is attempting to make Whitelee a local attraction and is to commission a multi-million-pound visitor centre, which it believes will attract tens of thousands visitors a year.
The centre, which has been put out to a design competition, would provide learning facilities and exhibits on climate change, renewable energy and energy in Scotland.
Keith Anderson, director of ScottishPower Renewables, said: “The Whitelee project gives Scotland the perfect opportunity to lead the world in renewable energy.
“Combating global warming is a challenge facing us all and this project, as Europe’s largest wind farm, will make a significant contribution in cutting carbon emissions.”
However, despite the relatively low number of objections some people remain fundamentally opposed to wind farms.
Gillian Bishop, whose home overlooks Whitelee, is spokeswoman for campaign group Views of Scotland.
She said: “Put at its most crude, this will not have any environmental benefits. The carbon emissions from digging up the peat would take 37 years to compensate for – 12 years longer than the lives of the turbines.
“We believe another 70 turbines could be in the pipeline, while there is also a danger of peat slides, which are essentially land movements caused by digging up peat.
“It happened in Ireland and it may well happen here.”
By Gerry Braiden
7 September 2007
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