HIGH upon the remote moorland behind the village of Barrhill you will find a small community of men working at the cutting edge of renewable energy at the control station for the Arecleoch and Mark Hill windfarms.
Last week, Galloway Gazette reporter Louise Kerr and photgrapher Peter Foster travelled into the hinterland of South Ayrshire to meet some of the operations staff who are carving a career for themselves in wind energy thanks to Scottish Power Renewables.
The two windfarms were opened last June by Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, with 60 Gamesa turbines at Arecleoch and a further 20 on the south side of Barrhill at Mark Hill. The combined output of the two sites can provided enough energy to power 100,000 homes each year.
A bank of computers in the cosy control room monitor the output from each turbine and walking outside to the base of one massive turbines there is mild surprise at how quietly the elegant blades rhythmically rotate in the icy wind.
Back inside the well appointed conference room, twenty-six-year-old Ross Taylor from Maybole tells us he joined the team at Arecleoch from the RAF and is confident he has a bright future ahead of him in renewables.
He said: “I have been working with turbines now for two years and I just love working outside with them. There is always something different to do and it is a growing industry. The country is going to rely more and more on wind energy in the years to come so it is a career with long term employment opportunities.”
Stephen Goodwin, aged 28, from Dalrymple, near Maybole, agreed saying: “I have only been working at this site for two weeks now. I saw an advert for a site engineer here in the local paper and applied. I started working with turbines three years ago doing installations, construction and servicing. This industry is getting bigger and bigger. When people hear what I do they are really interested and ask questions about what is going on. Questions like the difference between wind power and nuclear power. They want to know what are the benefits of wind power.”
The youngest man on site at the state-of the-art base is apprentice Andy Knox from Stairhaven, near Glenluce. Eighteen-year-old Andy got the job after studying at Kilmarnock College. He was interviewed at the college by B9 Energy, got the job and is now having the time of his life out in the hills.
“The work here varies every day”, said Andy, “sometimes we are doing servicing, sometimes maintenance. There is also the opportunity to do a course on wind technology through Belfast University.
“I really enjoy it the work. It’s really good. And there is no view like it from the top of the turbines.”
All three employees agree that there is a bright future for anyone thinking about a career in renewable energy and as employers Scottish Power Renewables, Gamesa and B9 Energy put an emphasis on facilitating the transfer of skills for recruits.
With the lifespan of a windfarm set at around 25 years and the commitment of the Scottish Government to make the country 100 per cent reliant of renewables by 2020, a career in renewable energy is as near to a job for life as you can get in the turbulent job market of 21st Century Scotland.