Biggest wind farm gets go-ahead and will be able to power 280,000 homes
"Whitelee is the largest single onshore wind farm to be consented in Europe and is a significant milestone towards achieving our renewable energy and climate change targets. We are strongly committed to the continued development of a diverse renewable energy portfolio in this country." - ALLAN WILSON, DEPUTY ENTERPRISE MINISTER
Story in full THE biggest onshore wind farm in Europe is to be built on a vast stretch of moorland near Glasgow and will open by the end of the decade, the Executive announced yesterday.
Ministers consented to the 140-turbine farm, to be built on high ground to the south of East Kilbride. The farm will have a maximum output of 322Mw. That is enough, the Executive claimed, to power nearly every house in Glasgow - or 280,000 homes.
When completed in 2009, it will be able to satisfy more than 2 per cent of Scotland's yearly electricity needs.
The farm will cover a huge area of moorland and forestry, on a site at Whitelee measuring 7.2 miles by 4.3 miles.
Announcing the Executive's consent to the Scottish Power project, Allan Wilson, the deputy enterprise minister, said: "This is another huge step forward for clean, green, renewable energy generation in Scotland.
"Whitelee is the largest single onshore wind farm to be consented in Europe and is a significant milestone towards achieving our renewable energy and climate change targets. We are strongly committed to the continued development of a diverse renewable energy portfolio in this country."
He said the farm would save 650,000 tonnes of a year.
The industry body Scottish Renewables said: "The Central Belt is doing its bit in the drive to make Scotland the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy."
However, several area residents complained about the Whitelee site's high visibility - it can be seen from ten miles away - and Scottish National Heritage raised concerns over a threat by access roads to black grouse and rare liverwort populations.
The plan has also raised concerns over its likely impact on air traffic control radars at Glasgow and Lowther hill, as well as weather radar operated by the Met Office.
But a Greenpeace spokesman hailed the Executive's move . "Edinburgh is setting an example that London would do well to follow," he said. "Tony Blair should take a leaf out of [First Minister Jack] McConnell's book by approving more wind farms and ending its fixation with new nuclear power stations."
Duncan McLaren, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said the approval was symbolic, given the current debate about nuclear energy.
The Executive has opposed new nuclear power stations despite indications from Westminster that it supports them as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Mr McLaren said: "This decision makes sure Scotland remains on track to meet its targets to generate renewable electricity.
"The important thing about this proposal is that it is close to areas of population where it will be used. It shows that wind farms can be built closer to urban areas.
"It underlines how Scotland could easily generate most of its electricity from renewables and thus not have to return to failed nuclear power".
But not everyone is happy. The headquarters for Views of Scotland, the anti-wind farm umbrella group, is located adjacent to the Whitelee site.
A spokeswoman said: "We are extremely disappointed. The development will cause significant environmental damage, ruin Glasgow's famous southern skyline, but do little to cut carbon emissions"