ScottishPower Renewables has officially opened the 136 megawatt (MW) Harestanes Windfarm near Dumfries, one of Scotland’s largest onshore windfarms.
The £160 million project has supported more than 150 jobs over the past two years, 60 directly from the local community. The windfarm will produce enough renewable energy to meet the average electricity demands of over 73,000 homes* per year.
The full site covers an area of 20 km2 in the Forest of Ae, which is managed by Forestry Commission Scotland. As well as installing 68 wind turbines, construction work has also included the development of new operations and maintenance building, and the creation of 11km of new tracks and paths which will be opened to members of the public for recreational use. Mountain bikers have also benefited, with a new 4km trail being built on the famous 7stanes cycle route.
As well as providing contracts for a range of local business during construction, the Harestanes project was also one of the drivers behind the creation of a new turbine technician course at nearby Dumfries and Galloway College.
The first intake of 18 students are just over a year in to the two-year course, which is supported by ScottishPower Renewables. The course allows participants to gain industry recognised qualifications and help them on their way to becoming wind turbine technicians.
As well as providing funding and support for the course, SPR has also donated a range of kit for students to work on, including an anemometer (used to measure wind speeds), a generator and transformer.
Keith Anderson, CEO of ScottishPower Renewables, said:
“Harestanes is one of the largest onshore windfarms in Scotland, and it is fantastic to see the project fully completed after a number of years of planning and preparation.
“As well as overcoming many hurdles during the planning process, we also had to manage the discovery of unexploded WW2 bombs during construction, and we were delighted to finish the project on schedule.
“Onshore wind power continues to be a strong contributor to the UK’s economy, and major projects like this support hundreds of jobs. Over the lifetime of the project, we will need highly skilled technicians to operate and maintain the windfarm and millions of pounds will be invested in the local area.
“We hope to see some of the newly qualified technicians from Dumfries College coming in to the industry and working on projects like this after graduation.
“We also look forward to the windfarm being used recreationally by members of the public, and we hope to attract many walkers, cyclists and joggers. I am always encouraged by the level of public interest in windfarms, and I think it is important that residents and visitors can interact with projects like this. We worked closely with Forestry Commission Scotland and cycling groups to deliver a new specially designed mountain bike track – and we hope this will encourage even more mountain biking enthusiasts to the area.”
“Projects like this provide considerable benefits to reducing our carbon emissions and play an important part in helping Scotland reach its target of 100 per cent of electricity demand generated from renewables as well as contributing to sustainable economic growth, investment and jobs.
“I am particularly pleased that this development may provide opportunities to the young people who are in Dumfries and Galloway college on course to complete their turbine technician training, and in turn secure jobs.
“The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places, and Scottish planning policy is clear that the design and location of renewables projects should reflect the scale and character of the landscape, as well as being considered environmentally acceptable.”
Bill Meadows, Forestry Commission Scotland’s District Manager for Dumfries and the Borders said:
“We are very keen that the National Forest Estate makes a significant contribution to helping the Scottish Government’s drive to produce renewable energy.
“Harestanes is a great example of how public land can be used successfully to generate clean energy which help reduce the impacts of climate change.
“It has been a positive project and we are pleased that local recreation facilities have been developed for the community too. All this has been achieved whilst we continue to operate a large timber producing forest.”
Images are (r) Students Kieran McLatchie and Andrew Black from Dumfries and Galloway college and (l) Fergus Ewing, MSP, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism