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Ten Years On: Whitelee Windfarm is 'National Success Story'

07/06/2019

A decade on from the opening of the UK’s largest onshore windfarm, new research shows it has generated enough clean, green energy to provide almost 90% of total annual household electricity consumed by Scottish households and businesses.

Economic impacts. Whitelee Windfarm represents a total lifetime investment of £1.5 billion by ScottishPower Renewables. 46% Scottish companies. 60% UK companies. Scottish and UK content - Almost half of expenditure (46%) has been spent with Scottish companies, 60% with UK companies. £1bn GVA in UK, including £790m Scottish value added. Whitelee supported over 4,000 FTE jobs during the peak years of construction. About 600 FTE jobs are supported every year through operating and maintaining Whitelee. Over 4,000 FTE jobs. Earnings in Scotland of £512 million over the lifetime of Whitelee - on average this is £26,000/FTE, with earnings of £670m in UK. £512m in Scotland. £670m in UK.

An independent report into Whitelee, which lies on the outskirts of Glasgow, has concluded that the windfarm is a national success story and highlights onshore wind as an essential part of the country’s generation mix in the drive to decarbonise power, transport and heat as we march towards net zero.

ScottishPower Renewables, which owns and operates the windfarm along with almost 40 others around the UK, today called on the Government to bring forward legislation that supports the UK Committee on Climate Change’s target to deliver net zero emissions by 2050 when compared to 1990 levels. 

Lindsay McQuade, CEO of ScottishPower Renewables, said: “We know that renewable energy generation needs to quadruple if we are to deliver on net zero.  We also know that onshore wind is the cheapest form of green energy and therefore should be part of Scotland, and the UK’s, low carbon, cost effective electricity system.

“If we are to meet the target of net zero by 2050, our ambition has to be backed by political will and underpinned by legislation. Since the passing of the Climate Change Act in 2008, a number of progressive policy measures have been put in place that has enabled Scotland to become coal-free. Working with industry and government, the same approach is now needed to ensure we can continue to invest in much needed renewable generation and thereby achieve this objective, and support action to tackle the climate emergency facing us.

“Whitelee is a great example of what effective policy can deliver.  It’s a national success story. Every year it produces the equivalent clean energy to power each and every electric vehicle currently in the UK, preventing over 5 million tonnes of carbon emissions had this energy come from fossil fuels. The decarbonisation of our economy, transport and heating systems can all be achieved through existing technology but that has to include onshore wind if we are to decarbonise by 2050.”

Environmental impacts. Over 8,600GWh to date, producing an average of almost 5% of all the renewable electricity generated in Scotland over the last ten years. Whitelee total generation to date has been enough to provide 9 times the annual household electricity consumption of Glasgow. Whitelee produces enough energy per year to power all the electric vehicles in the UK. Over 5 million tonnes of carbon emissions saved. Saving enough CO2 emissions per day to offset two days' worth of domestic flights to and from Heathrow and Gatwick. Whitelee produces the equivalent annual CO2, emissions saving a forest the size of over 40,000 football pitches maintained for 10 years. A single revolution of the blades on a Whitelee turbine produces enough energy to charge 300 mobile phones. ScottishPower Renewables is delivering on its commitment to restoring 900 hectares of previously forested peatland habitat.

The report into Whitelee, carried out by independent energy consultants BVG Associates, also found;

  • Whitelee’s total generation to date has been enough to provide 87% of the current annual household electricity consumption of Scotland
  • Whitelee produces enough energy per year to power all the electrical vehicles in the UK
  • A single revolution of the blades on one Whitelee turbine produces enough energy to fully charge over 300 mobile phones
  • Whitelee has saved over 5million tonnes of carbon emissions if compared to generation from fossil fuel
  • Each day Whitelee can offset enough CO2 emissions to offset two days’ worth of each and every domestic flights to and from Heathrow and Gatwick airports
  • Whitelee produces annual CO2 savings equivalent to 40,000 football pitches full of trees

Whitelee, which represents a total lifetime investment of £1.5bn by ScottishPower Renewables, also makes an essential contribution to the Scottish and UK economy. The study shows that over the life of the windfarm, it will boost the UK economy by over £1 billion, with over £790 million in Scotland.

Social impacts. Over 750,000 total visits to the visitor centre since opening. 200,000 people a year visit Whitelee for recreational activities such as walking, running or cycling. 46,000 school pupils have attended an educational programme at Whitelee Visitors Centre to date. £9 million to date Whitelee Windfarm community benefit funds have awarded over£9 million to local projects. The funds have supported many local projects, like the Kilmarnock Railway Station Heritage Trust.

It also supported over 4,000 jobs during its peak years of construction and sustains around 600 jobs every year through the operation and maintenance of the windfarm – creating the equivalent earnings in Scotland of £512 million (£670m UK-wide) over the lifetime of the windfarm.

To celebrate 10 years of Whitelee’s operation, a free family fun day is being held at the site’s popular visitor centre and cafe which expects to welcome its 750,000th visitor through the door. Currently 200,000 people visit the site each year to explore the 130 kilometres of trails on foot, bike or horse.

To date, the windfarm’s community benefit funds has disbursed over £9million to local projects and  further community benefit of over £14.5 million will be paid over the site’s remaining lifetime.


Notes to editors

  • Whitelee Windfarm is the UK's largest onshore windfarm, located on Eaglesham Moor just 20 minutes from Glasgow. Owned and operated by leading wind energy developer ScottishPower, its 215 turbines range up to 140m in height and have been successfully providing clean green renewable energy for almost a decade. Its significance to Scotland and its contribution to achieving ambitious climate change targets cannot be underestimated. At peak, it can generate 539 megawatts of electricity, enough to power just under 300,000 homes* or all the households in Glasgow. The site, which is accessible to the public, has an interactive visitor centre and is well known for its 130 kilometres of trails available to be explored on foot, by cycle or horseback. It welcomes thousands of visitors each year and will celebrate its 10th birthday this summer with a family fun-day for local people. For more information visit scottishpower.co.uk/whitelee

    *298,837 homes per year based on the expected average capacity factor of 27% and an average annual domestic electricity usage of 4,266kWh
     
  • Whitelee analysis provided by BVG Associates.  The full report – 10 years of Whitelee Windfarm A decade of economic, environmental and social benefits – is available on request.
  • Established in 2008, the UK Committee on Climate Change advises the UK government on targets for cutting emissions.  Its report, published this month, advised that the UK should completely eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  It also urged that Scotland set the target five years ahead of the UK as a whole given its larger landmass and more potential sites for carbon capture.
  • Net-zero is the point where the same volume of greenhouse gases is being emitted as is being absorbed through offsetting techniques like forestry.
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