Plans have been lodged with the Scottish Government to install another 36 giant wind turbines in the Irvine Valley – which would generate enough electricity to power 70,000 homes.
The turbines would form part of the vast Whitelee Windfarm that previously spilled over only slightly into the Irvine Valley.
Under the new proposals, the 36 extra turbines would be located just outside Newmilns and Darvel and a short distance from Waterside.
The planning application has been put forward by the windfarm’s developers, Scottish Power Renewables, and will be considered by the Scottish Government.
A public consultation will give residents the chance to air their views and ask questions about the proposals.
The existing turbines in the Whitelee Windfarm are already supplying power to the national grid and by 2009, 140 turbines will be up and running. If the planning consent is granted, the extra 36 turbines will take the total to 176 – confirming Whitelee’s status as the largest onshore windfarm in Europe.
Each turbine has three blades 45 metres long, about a third of a football pitch in length.
A spokesman for Scottish Power Renewables said: “We decided to ask for permission to extend the windfarm because it’s an ideal site and we’re already well underway with the rest of the windfarm.
“We hope that it will be given the green light and if it is we expect to start work in 2011 at the earliest, with the completion date some time in 2013.
“This will be great news for the local area and will generate a five or six figure fund every year for 25 years to go into a community fund that will go towards all kinds of community projects and groups.
“It will provide a huge financial boost for an area that needs it.”
The plans are sure to be met with some resistance as people have fears over the size of the turbines and the effect they will have on the scenery, as well as other concerns over windfarms.
But Scottish Power Renewables insist there are many misconceptions over windfarms that they are keen to address.
The spokesman added: “I think people realise now that they have to make a choice between a windfarm or a nuclear power station.
“The Scottish Government is committed to having 50 per cent of all energy in Scotland coming from renewable sources by 2020 and this is the best way to reach that target.
“People are more open to the idea now and
they realise we wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t a clean, reliable way to generate electricity.
Building of the already approved part of the windfarm is underway and will be completed in 2009, when enough power will be generated to power 200,000 homes.
Work began at the site in 2006 and the 110-metre tall Siemens turbines were delivered at night to minimise disruption.
The public consultations take place at the Newmilns Guide Hall on Wednesday, May 21, between 3pm and 7.30pm and at the Hareshaw Community Centre, Waterside, the next day at the same time.
By Stef Lach
15 May 2008