Des Browne MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, joined ScottishPower Renewables employees at a turf cutting ceremony today to mark the start of construction on a multi-million pound state-of-the-art visitor and learning centre at Whitelee Windfarm, near Glasgow.
The visitor centre will be the first of its kind in the UK, and is part of ScottishPower Renewables’ aim to make the windfarm accessible to the public. It will include a detailed exhibition explaining the construction of the windfarm and a unique education hub where both children and adults will be able to learn about the operation of windfarms and renewable energy under the tutorship of specially trained staff.
Whitelee Visitor Centre will also play a key role in a new Eaglesham Moor/Whitelee Forest access initiative. As part of the windfarm construction 82km of roads and tracks have been built that, on completion of the project, will be opened up to cyclists and ramblers who will be able to enjoy the views that stretch all the way over to the west highlands and observe the wildlife that forms part of the 25.5km² of habitat management areas – including Merlin and Black Grouse.
Whitelee Windfarm currently has 55 turbines already constructed and connected to the Grid, and is now officially the largest on-shore windfarm operating in the UK. When it is completed in 2009 it will be the largest in Europe, generating an output of 322 MW from 140 turbines – enough clean green energy for the equivalent of over 180,000 homes.
Andrew Jamieson, Regulation Director at ScottishPower Renewables said: “The windfarm at Whitelee is a major engineering achievement, and we believe it will have a positive impact on the local landscape as well making a significant contribution towards wider environmental targets. We want to encourage people to come and see the windfarm in operation and to learn about renewable energy. We have welcomed over 6,000 people to recent open days at Black Law windfarm, so we know that people have a genuine interest in wind power, and we hope that the visitor centre will help to make Whitelee a popular attraction.”
Des Browne said: “I’m very pleased to be here to today to help get work on the Whitelee Wind Farm Visitor Centre under way. The Government is committed to encouraging the growth of renewable energy production in the UK, and everyone will have a role to play in supporting a move to more sustainable energy production and consumption. An initiative like this – a site that generates visitors as well as energy – can therefore be a vital tool in educating people about the benefits of this technology. I’m sure that many Scots will visit and go home both impressed and a little better informed about the part wind power plays in their own lives.”
Tours of the windfarm site will also be available for visitors, and plans are being made to introduce eco-friendly buses, powered by electricity generated from the site.
Other planned facilities include retail and catering areas as well as externally accessed showers for users of the site, including cyclists and runners.