Jim Murphy MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, today officially opened the £2m state-of-the-art visitor and learning centre at Whitelee Windfarm near Glasgow, Europe’s largest on-shore windfarm. Managed by Glasgow Science Centre, the new facility will encourage visitors to learn more about renewable energy and, at the same time, will act as the focal point for the cyclists, horse riders and ramblers who want to take of advantage of the windfarm’s vast recreational possibilities.
Xabier Viteri, CEO, Iberdrola Renovables and Keith Anderson, Managing Director of ScottishPower Renewables, took Mr Murphy on a tour of the new facility before the official opening ceremony.
Located on a natural ridge overlooking the majority of Whitelee’s 140 turbines, the state-of-the-art sustainable wooden structure is powered by electricity generated on-site and takes it water supply from specially created boreholes. Features include a unique interactive hands-on learning zone which caters for all ages, a viewing gallery, café and gift shop as well as bicycle stores and external shower facilities. Specially trained educational staff will also be on-hand.
The visitor centre will play an integral role in the wider Whitelee Access Initiative. The windfarm site covers an area of 55 km2, and its 90km of roads and tracks have also been opened to the public. It is hoped that cyclists, horse riders and ramblers – amongst others - will take full advantage of the newly created countryside access and a ranger service is being established to assist visitors and promote greater use of the Whitelee area.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Keith Anderson, Managing Director of ScottishPower Renewables said: “The growth of renewable energy is crucial in the fight against climate change and major projects like Whitelee are essential to achieving carbon reduction targets. We are very proud of the engineering achievement at Whitelee and it has always been our intention to make the site fully accessible.
“This is the first visitor centre of its kind in Scotland and we were keen to include practical educational features to help inspire younger generations. The knowledge and experience of Glasgow Science Centre has helped us achieve this goal whilst making sure the displays are fun to use and interactive.
“We will encourage schools and community groups to visit, with specially trained educational staff there to ensure a hands-on learning experience.
“We are also hopeful that the centre will be used by visitors who want to take advantage of the recreational side of the windfarm, and also those who just want to take-in the views and observe the wildlife in the comfortable surroundings of the café.”
Jim Murphy MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, said: “The work at Whitelee will inspire Scots of all ages. The energy generated here and at other sites is powering our homes now and will do so to an even greater extent in the future.
"The centre is a winning combination of education and energy. It shows us all how we can all be more energy efficient and reduce our carbon footprint. We are at the start of the renewables revolution and the UK Government is committed to Scotland and the UK’s low carbon future.
"Renewables are not only good for our planet’s future – they are vital for our economic future. I hope the centre will fire up the interest of young Scots in a rapidly expanding industry - which is both crucial for our future economic prosperity and opens up so many careers options."
A further programme of access improvements is planned over the next two years, with work starting in the autumn to further improve facilities both within the windfarm and across the surrounding area. This will include the development or upgrading of recreational paths, improved car parking, newly established viewpoints and enhanced signage.
Admission to the centre is free for members of the public, although a small charge may be applicable to larger school groups to cover the costs of the specially trained educational staff. Further details about the visitor centre are available by logging on to www.whiteleewindfarm.co.uk.
Notes to Editors:
The initial 140 turbines at Whitelee Windfarm are capable of producing up to 322MW of electricity – enough to power over 180,000 homes and the equivalent of displacing 500,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. A proposal to extend the site by another 130 MW has been approved by the Scottish Government and a planning application has been lodged for a second extension, which could add a further 140MW.
The Whitelee Access Project is funded by ScottishPower Renewables and delivered by East Renfrewshire, East Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire Council
ScottishPower Renewables is part of Iberdrola Renovables, the largest wind energy company in the world* with an installed capacity of over 10.000 MW at the end of June 2009, and a pipeline of 56.622 MW. ScottishPower Renewables had 790 MW of installed capacity at the end of June 2009, a 48.8% increase on the previous year, and a pipeline of 5,018 MW.