Europe’s largest wind farm set another record today when the first array of new turbines at the Whitelee extension, near Glasgow, were connected to the electricity grid and power was generated for the first time. The ScottishPower Renewables wind farm will have an operating capacity of 539 MW later this year when all additional 75 turbines in the extension are completed – enough to power the needs of more than 300,000 homes.
The extension will cement Whitelee’s position as the largest wind farm in Europe. Last summer ScottishPower Renewables, which is part of the Iberdrola Group, became the first company in the UK to have an installed capacity of 1,000 MW from wind power.
The significant connection project also involved teams from ScottishPower Energy Networks (SPEN) and Iberdrola Engineering and Construction (IEC). To connect the turbines to the electricity grid a major new 275kV substation was constructed on the site and a 16.5km high voltage cable was installed to connect the extension to the existing East Kilbride South substation. Engineers from SPEN and IEC also oversaw the complex process of commissioning the cables and the substation to ensure that the electricity generated from the extension could come on stream.
In total the Whitelee extension project has seen investment of more than £300m and has involved more than 350 workers. 225km of cables have been installed and more than 2.5 million tonnes of rock, taken directly from the site, have been used to construct the wind farm roads and the hard standing areas used by the cranes.
The extension will also mean that a further 30 km of tracks and trails will be opened to the public for outdoor activities such as walking and cycling, adding to the original 90km of tracks already open to the public. Official figures show that more than 200,000 people have now been to the visitor centre at Whitelee, with tens of thousands more expected to have directly accessed the site.
Keith Anderson, CEO of ScottishPower Renewables, said: “The construction of the extension at Whitelee is one of the largest renewable energy projects currently being carried out in the UK, and it has drawn on the expertise of engineers working across all areas of the Iberdrola Group. We are delighted to have reached this major milestone and to see the new turbines producing renewable electricity for the grid. The extension alone will make a significant contribution to both Scotland’s and the UK’s carbon reduction targets.
“We first considered Whitelee as a site with the potential to build a wind farm in 1999, and thousands of people have been involved in successfully creating the largest wind energy project of its kind anywhere in Europe. Scotland is set to see major growth in renewable energy produced from offshore wind, wave and tidal power – but onshore wind farms will continue to have a significant role to play in our energy mix.
“The fact that the wind farm has become such a popular visitor attraction for school trips, families and outdoor sports enthusiasts has entirely exceeded our expectations. The wind farm has opened up large sections of the countryside that were previously inaccessible, and we hope that the extension will also prove to be popular with visitors.”
The 75 new turbines are made up of 69 Alstom ECO 100 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 3 MW and 6 ECO 74 turbines, each with a capacity of 1.67 MW. The extension project at Whitelee is set to be fully completed by summer 2012.