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Whitelee Wind Farm

Located on Eaglesham Moor, 8 miles (12 km) northeast of Kilmarnock and 10 miles (16 km) south of Glasgow, Whitelee Wind Farm was, until 2012, the largest onshore wind farm in Europe. Extending from west to east for 7½ miles (12 km) across the boundaries between East Ayrshire, East Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire, and south for 5¼ miles (8.5 km) from a visitor centre at Queenseat Hill, 3 miles (5 km) southwest of Eaglesham, the site now comprises 215 turbines spread over an area of 5300 ha (13,096 acres). Opened by First Minister Alex Salmond (b.1954) on 20th May 2009, the farm is owned and operated by Scottish Power Renewables, a privatised utility which now forms part of a multi-national energy group. The farm has a peak output of 539 MW of electricity.

The farm extends over rolling hills, at an altitude of around 300m (984 feet) above sea level, the Whitelee Forest and around Lochgoin Reservoir and Craigendunton Reservoir. The project was launched by Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Alistair Darling (b. 1953). Built at a cost of £300 million in 2006-09 by a consortium comprising Morrison Construction and Balfour Kilpatrick, the original 140 turbines were augmented by a further 75 units in 2013. These were erected by Sisk Roadbridge at the cost of a further £300 million.

The original 140 Siemens turbines are rated at 2.3 MW each and stand 110m (360 feet) to their blade tips. Of the newer French-built Alstom turbines, 69 generate up to 3 MW of electricity and 6 up to 1.67 MW, reaching 140m (459 feet) and 110m (360 feet) in height respectively. The turbines start producing electricity in wind speeds as slow as 4 m/second (9 mph), with optimal output 12-15 m/s (27-33 mph). Many of the access roads actually float on top of the deep peat deposits (which can be 7m / 23 feet in thickness) on a special geotextile mat. The turbines themselves are mounted on extensive foundations, each comprising 240 to 300 cu. m of steel-reinforced concrete.

The £2-million Visitor Centre, Scotland's first renewable energy learning centre, includes an exhibition with hands-on interactive activities, a Learning Hub which hosts tours, activities and workshops for members of the public and school groups, a shop and a café. The work of Hypostyle Architects, this single-storey contemporary design was constructed in corrugated metal, wood and natural stone, with a green copper roof. It is managed by the Glasgow Science Centre.


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