THE operators of Scotland's largest wind farm are being reported to the advertising watchdog over allegations they misrepresented the contribution its turbines can make to national energy requirements.
Opponents say the claims by ScottishPower Renewables, which runs Whitelee Wind Farm, near Eaglesham, East Renfrewshire, are typical of the "hype" from the wind energy industry which is "deceiving" the public.
Scientific Alliance Scotland has written to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) making a formal complaint against claims made on the website of Whitelee Windfarm, stating: "The wind farm has 215 turbines which can generate 539 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power over 300,000 homes."
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The Scientific Alliance disputes the figures, claiming they are not based on the available scientific evidence, and that the actual output is over one-third less.
Professor Emeritus Tony Trewavas, the group's Scottish chairman, said: "This is a classic example of the misinformation and hype routinely presented as fact by the renewables industry as its efforts to justify its huge subsidies become ever more desperate.
"It's quite clear to us that Whitelee Windfarm has grossly exaggerated its output and efficiency, and that's why we have written to the Advertising Standards Authority to complain.
"The public, which pays for these subsidies via increased energy bills, is being deceived."
Professor Trewavas, of Edinburgh University's Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, who has been a prominent supporter of GM food technology, said the claims for Whitelee were based on an industry standard capacity factor of 30% and an annual domestic usage of 4266kWh.
Whitelee's actual rolling load factor from 2007 to 2013 was 22.2%, he said.
Professor Trewavas said since most homes were heated by gas, electricity usage comprises only about one-quarter of domestic energy consumption - thus to fully power a home would require approximately four times that amount.
He said: "On the basis of an achieved load factor and actual domestic energy requirements Whitelee could power only around 61,500 homes."
However, a spokesman for Scottish Power Renewables challenged Professor Trewavas on his calculation.
He said: "Whitelee did not have a connection to the national grid in 2007, and the original site was also not fully completed until mid-2009. The extension was completed earlier this year." The extension took the capacity up to 539MW from 322MW, he said.
He said the Committee of Advertising Practice, which writes UK Advertising Codes, administered by the Advertising Standards Authority, recently issued a new guidance note for the wind power sector and the company was in the process of updating calculations where required.
He did concede a minor exaggeration on the number of homes Whitelee could power, saying: "We have been monitoring wind speeds at Whitelee for over 10 years, and based on site specific data, we anticipate that the average load factor for the project over a 25-year period will be approximately 27%.
"Based on the current average figure for household electricity consumption from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Whitelee will meet the average electricity demands of just under 300,000 (298,837) homes per year."