SCOTLAND’S First Minister Alex Salmond joined Scottish Power chairman Ignacio Galán on Thursday to celebrate the completion of the Whitelee Windfarm – the largest onshore wind power project in Europe.
The initial 140 turbines, situated across the 55 square kilometre site near Eaglesham, are capable of producing up to 322 megawatts of electricity – enough to power over 180,000 houses and the equivalent of displacing 500,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.
Mr Galán and Mr Salmond’s visit to Whitelee was made amid news that the Scottish Government had just approved a proposal to extend the windfarm.
Switching on one of the final turbines at the initial site, Mr Galán, said the completion of the windfarm was a milestone in the history of Scotland.
He added that Iberdrola – Scottish Power’s parent company – was fully committed to all the markets where it was active and aspired to be an engine for development and growth.
He added: “Iberdrola is committed to helping Scotland and the UK fully realise its renewable energy potential as we seek to create wealth and prosperity through our investments and local procurement, and also by creating jobs.
"The excellent location of Whitelee has always meant that it would be possible to extend the windfarm, and we are delighted the Scottish Government has approved our plans to do so."
First Minister Alex Salmond added: “Today we announce further investment, more jobs and greater progress of Scotland's clean, green energy revolution.
"Our potential for electricity generation from renewables is up to 60GW – more than ten times our peak demand.
"Whitelee in its current form is already flying the flag for onshore wind power in Europe. The planned extension, which I am delighted to announce today, will enable the windfarm to harness its comparative and competitive advantage in wind generated energy within Europe.
“It has the infrastructure, the expertise and the capacity to continue to develop in the future.”
"During its initial construction, the windfarm employed more than 500 people and ploughed £300 million investment directly into the Scottish economy. The benefits of this investment go beyond East Renfrewshire and beyond our real economy. It is an investment in Scotland's potential and ambition to lead the clean, green energy revolution."
The windfarm at Whitelee has been a decade in the making, after the site was first identified in 1999.
Now that construction is drawing to a close, finishing work will be carried out on the road network and a £2 million state-of-the-art visitor centre will be completed. The visitor centre will be the first of its kind in the UK and will include an exhibition area explaining the construction of the windfarm and a unique renewable energy education centre which will be operated by specially trained staff.
As part of the company's plans to make the site fully accessible, tours of the windfarm will also be available for visitors, and plans are being made to introduce eco-friendly buses powered by electricity generated from the site. The site will be fully opened to the public later in the summer, making it one of Scotland's largest eco-tourist attractions.