Keir Starmer wrong to say turbines at UK’s largest onshore wind farm made in Indonesia

1 August 2023
What was claimed

There are 350 wind turbines at Whitelee, the biggest onshore wind farm in the UK.

Our verdict

Not quite. There are 215 wind turbines at Whitelee, the UK’s largest onshore wind farm.

What was claimed

All of the turbines at Whitelee Wind Farm were made in Indonesia.

Our verdict

Incorrect. All of the turbines at Whitelee Wind Farm were manufactured in Europe.

“Whitelee is the biggest onshore wind farm in the UK, it’s just outside Glasgow, there’s 350 wind turbines there… I went there with the CEO of Scottish Power… I said ‘how many of these were built in the UK’ and he said ‘none of them’... ’these were all made in Indonesia’.”

During The Tony Blair Institute’s Future of Britain conference on 18 July, in an interview with Sir Tony Blair, Sir Keir Starmer MP referred anecdotally to a visit he’d made to Scotland’s Whitelee Wind Farm.

Mr Starmer was right to say that Whitelee, which is owned and operated by ScottishPower Renewables, is the UK’s largest onshore wind farm. However, he claimed “there’s 350 wind turbines there”, when there are actually 215

Mr Starmer also claimed he had been told all of its wind turbines were built in Indonesia, which is incorrect. ScottishPower told Full Fact: “Whitelee is the UK’s largest onshore wind farm. Its 215 turbines, manufactured in Europe, generate up to 539 MW of electricity – enough to power over 350,000 homes.”

The company said Keir Starmer visited Whitelee in 2021 and discussed the need for a UK industrial strategy with ScottishPower CEO Keith Anderson. 

Siemens Gamesa, the wind turbine division of Siemens Energy, told Full Fact the 140 wind turbines they provided in the initial phase of Whitelee’s development were “manufactured in Europe. All the main components came from Denmark and Germany”.

The turbines for Whitelee’s second phase were provided by Alstom. We have asked Alstom exactly where these turbines were made, and will update this article if they reply. As noted, however, ScottishPower has confirmed to Full Fact that these turbines were also manufactured in Europe.

A new offshore wind farm, Neart na Gaoithe, is being constructed by EDF Renewables off the coast of Fife. The construction of 54 steel foundation jackets, on which the turbines and offshore substations will be installed, is being completed by the company Saipem, mainly at their base in Karimun, Indonesia. Two of the jackets are being made in Arbatax, Italy, and eight jackets were manufactured at a fabrication yard in Scotland.

EDF Renewables said: “We have worked closely with our tier one preferred suppliers, encouraging them to use Scottish suppliers in the production of components. However, that is not always possible: when this is the case, our tier one suppliers use overseas suppliers.”

It is possible Mr Starmer was confusing Whitelee Wind Farm with Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm. This is completely separate from Whitelee Wind Farm, which is around 100 miles away, is owned and run by another company and has not had new turbines installed since 2012.

The turbines for the Neart na Gaoithe project will be provided by Siemens Gamesa, and the blades are being produced in Hull. 

A Siemens Gamesa spokesperson told us: “For the NNG offshore wind farm all the blades and nacelles came from our plants in the UK and Denmark. The towers for the wind turbines were manufactured by our suppliers in Germany and Vietnam.”

Image courtesy of rachelalienergy

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