“Windmills on the hills,
Windmills on the ridges
Whistling wind whirls wildly.
We watch the whirling blades,
Waving their flailing arms,
Giants on the horizon,
From “Wind Turbines” by Audrey Christopherson
Like them or loathe them, wind turbines and wind farms have become a significant part of the landscape over the last three decades. Thinking about the record places in our local landscapes and across the UK we always focus on the natural world (the highest hills?) or historical places and features (the oldest church?). It’s easy to forget that the landscape changes continuously, and that new features have become important – and few of us now live far from the giants of sustainable energy which are the goliath wind turbines. The first onshore wind turbines in the UK were built as recently as 1991, and the first offshore windfarm opened in December 2000 – but today there are over 8000 wind turbines across the UK and its offshore waters, which generate 18% of our electricity. This makes us the largest generators of electricity from wind turbines in the world, producing one third of Europe’s wind power.
So where are the ‘record’ wind farms in the UK? Almost every county now has at least one wind turbine within its boundaries, but the largest collections of turbines in wind farms onshore are found mostly in the windy upland and western regions. The oldest onshore wind farm is at Delabole in Cornwall (Grid Reference SX08528504), which opened with 10 turbines in 1991. Although it has had a chequered history, and hosted a now closed visitor centre for many years, it is still operational, producing about 400kw of power.
The largest onshore wind farm is Whitelee Wind Farm at Eaglesham, 20km south of Glasgow, which has 215 turbines producing up to 539mw of power, or enough to provide electricity to 375,000 homes. The Visitor Centre at Eaglesham (Grid Reference NS59914599) provides a spectacular viewpoint and a great insight into the scheme. The largest onshore wind farm in England is on the south coast of Kent at Little Cheyne Court (Grid Reference TQ98222193), which stands on Romney Marsh, 7km west of Lydd. Its 26 turbines are 115m tall, and generate nearly 60mw of power.
Onshore wind farms still generate more than half the wind power in the UK, but that will change by 2020 as new offshore sites become operational. The first offshore wind farm in the UK was opened at Blyth in Northumberland in December 2000, but was decommissioned and removed in early 2019. That means that the oldest offshore wind farm still operational is the North Hoyle Wind Farm which stands in Liverpool Bay 7.5km north of Rhyl on the North Wales coast (Grid Reference SJ07009389). Opened in December 2003, its 30 turbines produce 60mw of electricity.
When it comes to identifying the largest offshore wind farm, the champion changes frequently. Until 2018 it was the London Array, whose 175 turbines generate 630mw some 11km north of North Foreland on the Thames Estuary in Kent. (Grid Reference TR45839993). In June 2018, though, the Walney Extension Wind Farm, 14km west of Walney Island on the coast of Cumbria, was commissioned with 87 turbines generating 659mw of power, making it the largest wind farm in the world (Grid Reference SD00356198). But Walney Extension’s ‘champion’ status will be short-lived. Early in 2020 the new Hornsea One Wind Farm in the North Sea, 120km off the coast of Lincolnshire will become fully operational (Grid Reference TB49104988), making it the furthest from shore that an offshore wind farm has ever been built. Although it already provides power to the National Grid, when complete it will generate 1200mw of electricity, and will be the largest wind farm in the world. Most offshore wind farms are visible from the nearest coastline, of course, and are therefore a significant part of the seascape. Hornsea One will be the exception, as it is not visible from land – the nearest you can get without a boat is Horseshoe Point, near Marshchapel on the Lincolnshire coast (Grid Reference TA38160185), where the power cable from the wind farm comes ashore on its way to Killingholme Power Station in north Lincolnshire. Hornsea One is, though, unlikely to remain the largest offshore wind farm for very long!!
So what about your own locality and county? You can find the location of all power generation sites, including wind turbines, on the map at www.mygridgb.co.uk , so you can identify the nearest and largest sites quite easily. In East Sussex, for example, there are two operational wind farms. The ‘oldest’ is the three turbine Shepham Wind Farm at Polegate, just north of Eastbourne (Grid Reference TQ60100551), which has been generating power since 2017. The largest is the new offshore Rampion Wind Farm, commissioned in 2018 in the English Channel 13km south of Brighton and visible from much of the Sussex coast, whose 116 turbines produce 400mw of power. In Greater London there is only one wind farm site, with two turbines, which is at the Ford factory at Dagenham (Grid Reference TQ49398241) in east London. While others are visible e.g. at South Ockendon and at Hornchurch Marshes, they stand outside the boundary of Greater London
The Must Get Out More Question !
On the theme of wind power, where is the oldest working windmill in the UK?
The Answer to the Last Question
Where is the oldest tree in the United Kingdom, and how old is it estimated to be?
Trees are notoriously difficult to “age”, as the calculation depends on measuring the girth and knowing the average growth rate of the particular tree species. Yew trees are the longest lived species in the UK, and it is believed that the oldest tree in the UK is therefore the “Fortingall Yew”, which stands in the churchyard at Fortingall, 10km west of Aberfeldy near to Loch Tay in Perthshire. Estimates of its age range from 1500 years to 5000 years, but most estimates suggest it is 2000-3000 years old (Grid Reference NN74224701).
The Record Locations
You can use the Grid References provided to locate record locations on a map at www.streetmap.co.uk