Scotland Leapfrogs Europe's Wind Energy Industry

A new energy source will replace the old. A coal train traverses the site of the Clyde windfarm beside the M74 motorway at Abington. . Photograph: Peter Schofield

Scotland Leapfrogs Europe's Wind Energy Industry, writes John Vidal. Environment News Service, July 2008

GLASGOW, Scotland, July 22, 2008 (ENS) - Europe's largest onshore windfarm, able to generate enough power for 320,000 homes, has been approved by the Scottish government.

Announcing the new windfarm approval ahead of the World Renewable Energy Congress in Glasgow, First Minister Alex Salmond said the 152-turbine Clyde windfarm near Abington in South Lanarkshire is "another step towards making Scotland the green energy capital of Europe."

"The Clyde windfarm will represent a very important step in the development of renewable energy in Scotland and in meeting shared European targets," Salmand said on Monday.

Clyde will be built in two phases, with commissioning of the first phase set for 2010 and completion of both phases scheduled for 2011.

The Scottish government has set a target of supplying a third of Scotland's electricity demand from renewable sources by 2011 and half by 2020, said Salmond.

"Today's announcement makes it virtually certain that the 2011 target will be met early and exceeded by the end of this Parliamentary term and represents a significant milestone on the way to achieving the 2020 target," he said.

The Clyde windfarm application was submitted by Airtricity. It became part of Scottish and Southern Energy's development portfolio when the company acquired Airtricity in February 2008.

The development is expected to require an investment of £600 million (US$1.195 billion). Scottish and Southern Energy, SSE, estimates that half of the total investment will be placed with Scottish companies.

SSE Chief Executive Ian Marchant said Monday, "Projects like Clyde are essential if Scotland and the UK are to have any hope of meeting legally-binding EU targets for renewable energy. Scottish Ministers aim to make Scotland the green energy capital of Europe, and giving the Clyde wind farm consent is evidence of a willingness to take decisions which are consistent with that ambition."

The windfarm will be built in clusters of turbines on either side of the M74 motorway in southern Scotland.

Clyde will have a total capacity of up to 548 megawatts of power, more than double the biggest windfarm currently operating in Europe - the Maranchon windfarm in Guadalajara, Spain, which has a generating capacity of 208 megawatts.

Another large windfarm is under construction in Scotland but it will not come close to the generating capacity of Clyde.

Whitelee, on Eaglesham Moor, south of Glasgow, will consist of 140 wind turbines with a total capacity of 322 megawatts once it is completed next summer. It is expected to produce enough power for over 180,000 homes, more than two percent of the Scotland's annual electricity needs, and will hold the title of largest windfarm in Europe until Clyde is completed in 2011.

"Clyde is clearly going to be a major project, with significant economic opportunities for the local community," said SSE's Marchant. During construction, the Clyde project is expected to create 200 jobs, with some 30 staffers employed when the windfarm is fully operational, he said.

"Scotland has a clear, competitive advantage in developing clean, green energy sources such as wind, wave and tidal power," said Salmand. "We have put renewable energy at the heart of our vision of increasing sustainable, economic growth."

Current installed renewables capacity in Scotland totals 2,800 megawatts, while installed nuclear generating capacity is 2,090 megawatts.

"Installed renewables capacity is already greater than nuclear capacity. But this announcement demonstrates that we are only at the start of the renewables revolution in Scotland," the first minister said.

"Combined with the crucial announcement of a new biomass plant in Fife on Friday, the Clyde declaration today makes this weekend one of the biggest advances ever in energy technology in Scotland," Salmand said.

On Friday, the first minister visited the future site of the 45 megawatt combined heat and power biomass plant in Markinch, Glenrothes, where he met with representatives from energy supplier RWE npower Cogen and papermaker firm Tullis Russell.

The joint venture will be built and operated by npower Cogen, the cogeneration division of RWE npower, a UK developer of industrial combined heat and power, often called cogeneration.

It will provide Tullis Russell with steam and electricity, reducing the papermill's emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by around 250,000 metric tonnes each year.

Approval of the Clyde windfarm means that the total installed capacity of renewable power plants either built or consented and under construction will be 4.55 gigawatts - just 450 megawatts short of the five gigawatts needed to reach the Scottish government's interim target of generating 31 percent of Scotland's electricity demand from renewable sources by 2011.

The Scottish Government's Energy Consents Unit is currently processing 37 renewable project applications - 28 wind farms, eight hydropower projects and one wave power project.