Wind Energy Turns Kintyre Economy Around

CAMPBELTOWN, Scotland, July 8, 2002 (ENS) - Originally an area known best for its fishing fleet, its music festival, and the distillation of whisky, the Kintyre Peninsula is now host to the UK's most efficient windfarm, which officially opened today. The 46 wind turbines on the peninsula's highest hill will deliver an output of 30 megawatts, enough to supply electricity to 25,000 homes.


The town of Carradale on the Kintyre Peninsula is closest to the new windfarm. (Photo courtesy Johnny MacKinnon)
Scottish Power's 21 million (US$32.4 million) wind energy project is able to produce its power so efficiently because the Kintyre Peninsula is one of the windiest spots in Europe.

Minister for Energy Brian Wilson said, "This project shows that the technology is now available to produce not only clean but also efficient electricity from wind power."

The 40 metre (131 foot) high towers sit on top of a hill called Beinn an Tuirc, 454 metres (1,489 feet) above sea level. The wind travels unimpeded across the Atlantic Ocean, gathering speed, until it hits the blades that extend 47 metres (154 feet) in diameter.

The development is expected to prevent 92,000 metric tonnes (101,400 tons) of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

As part of the windfarm project, conservation reserves will be created on the surrounding land, to help build the threatened population of black grouse.

The windfarm is situated at the edge of a long established golden eagle territory and during development there has been large scale habitat management aimed at making the territory more sustainable in the future.

The traditional sources of employment on the Kintyre Peninsula are in decline. The fishing fleet is a fraction of its former size. The area was once the capital of whisky production in Scotland with 30 distilleries, but only one is still producing. A menswear factory is the single largest employer in the area, but it has recently cut its workforce. There was a factory producing model aircraft that has recently closed. Golf and yachting draw some tourists to Kintyre's charming accomodations.

But now there is hope of sustainable employment in the wind power industry.

The Kintyre wind farm is the first three windfarm developments planned in Argyll by Scottish Power. Two further developments, one of which one has already gained consent, are expected to bring local jobs, primarily in their construction.


Vestas wind turbines like this one will be produced on the Kintyre Peninsula (Photo courtesy NREL)
In another wind boost for the economically depressed peninsula, a new Vestas wind turbine manufacturing plant has been constructed on the site of a former Royal Air Force base near the Kintyre town of Machrihanish. It will produce the first British built wind turbines.

The Macrihanish factory will carry out the construction of the wind turbine towers and generator cabins, and will also be responsible for their final assembly. Manufacturing of the turbines' fibreglass nose cones will be subcontracted. The Danish firm Vestas currently holds 30 percent of world sales of wind turbine capacity.

UK windfarm developer Powergen Renewables announced in June that it will buy its first British built wind turbines from the Macrihanish Vestas factory in a 25 million deal.

The 71 turbines have been earmarked for Powergen Renewables' 60 megawatt Derrybrien project in County Galway in the Republic of Ireland. An option has been agreed for a further 51 turbines.

Powergen Renewables general manager Dr. Chris Morris said, "Until now, the option of buying British built turbines did not exist, and we're delighted to be able finally to put that right."

"As one of the UK's leading wind farm developers, we believe that this order is good news for everyone," he said. "We get proven, effective turbines, the UK wind industry gets a major boost and we help create and maintain jobs in the local community hard hit by unemployment."

Earlier this year, Powergen Renewables announced a 1,000 megawatt target in its renewable capacity by 2010, split 80-20 between its existing wind farm business and a new biomass division.


UK Minister for Energy Brian Wilson (Photo courtesy DTI)
Energy Minister Wilson said, "Renewables is not just about energy and the environment but also about manufacturing and jobs. There are very significant opportunities for UK industry and if they respond well to this, it will result in new generating equipment and services being supplied by UK firms."

The UK government has called for 10 percent of the UK's electricity requirements to be generated from renewable sources by 2010, and the Irish government has targeted 500 megawatts of renewable energy by 2005.