24 Jan 2002 – ScottishPower submitted plans to the Scottish Executive Wednesday for a £150m windfarm at Whitelee Forest, near Eaglesham – comprising around 140 turbines and with the potential to provide green energy to 150 000 homes in west central Scotland.

If approved, the 240 MW windfarm could be operational in 2003 and would be the biggest in Europe. It is a key part of ScottishPower’s programme to install some 500 MW of windpower over the next few years. The windfarm would meet nearly one third of the Government’s renewable energy targets for Scotland and cut annual emissions of CO² by around 500 000 tonnes.

The planning application incorporates major changes following extensive consultation with the public, including 75 organizations and groups and the 300 people who attended a series of exhibitions on the proposals.

The company has also decided to increase the distance between the turbines and the nearest communities, typically to in excess of 1km and has also agreed to re-route construction traffic to avoid Eaglesham.

There are plans for a visitor centre, and greater public access through provision of footpaths and cycle-ways utilizing the 40 or so miles of maintenance tracks. The centre will have café and meeting facilities, changing rooms for runners and cyclists, and the company also intends to run an electric tour bus on part of the site.

Whitelee is among the first windfarms to meet new guidelines for windfarm development set out by the Scottish Executive and Scottish Natural Heritage recommending large-scale projects in brownfield and or forested sites within the Central Belt. ScottishPower said the site was selected following an exhaustive process to identify the most promising windfarm sites in Scotland based on a range of environmental and technical criteria.

Development plans for the area identify the site as being suitable for windfarm development, with no especially sensitive ecological or landscape features.

The windfarm is also ideally located for supplying the central belt and will be connected to the local network via a new, 7km underground cable.

Alan Mortimer, ScottishPower’s Head of Wind Development, said, “We are expanding our windfarm business throughout the UK and the Whitelee Forest windfarm will help us considerably to meet government requirements to provide 10 per cent of our generation from renewable sources.

Commenting on the project, Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Chief Executive, Kevin Dunion, said, “We welcome wind farm proposals, which provide energy close to the point of use, and we are also pleased that this proposal allows for full community consultation.”

The application for planning permission will be decided by the Scottish Executive in consultation with the local councils, East Renfrewshire Council, South Lanarkshire Council and East Ayrshire Council, and members of the public.