Industry innovator pays tribute to Aberdeenshire’s ‘father of wind power’ 

14/05/2024
Image courtesy of Scottish Renewables

BORN in 1839 in Marykirk, Blyth obtained a Masters of Art degree in 1871 before being appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at Anderson’s College in Glasgow in 1880 (now the University of Strathclyde) where he began researching wind power generation and energy storage.

It was in the garden of his Marykirk holiday home, however, that Blyth began building his experimental designs and in 1887 he developed the first turbine in the world to generate electricity from wind.

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Fast forward a century and a small team of pioneers, later to become ‘RES’, began their own journey of innovative wind turbine engineering – and in December 1998, the first commercial 1MW wind turbine to be designed and built in the UK was installed by RES at Slievenahanaghan, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Gavin Shirley, Project Manager for RES’ Aberdeenshire Hill of Fare Wind Farm, commented: “As someone who is passionate about wind power and the benefits it can deliver, it’s inspiring to discover legends like James Blyth. Were he alive today I think he would marvel at the breakthrough in aerodynamics, the generating capacity available and be very proud that these machines are helping to address the global issue of climate change. What started out as a small wood and canvas sail turbine he built to power his home has evolved in size and sophistication to generate low cost electricity that can power thousands of homes!”

“Innovation is highly valued within RES and a fundamental part of our heritage. As such, Blyth’s story resonates strongly with us – not just in terms of wind power – but also with our overall company ethos.”

More recently, RES has been bringing innovation to another area of interest shared with Blyth, energy storage, and has pioneered the delivery of energy storage solutions across the world, including developing the UK’s first sub-second frequency response service from battery storage for National Grid in 2016.

RES has also introduced innovation to their onshore wind community benefit packages with their unique Local Electricity Discount Scheme (LEDS). LEDS has now been successfully operating for over 10 years and was developed by RES in response to research and feedback from local communities. LEDS offers properties closest to participating operational wind/solar farms in Great Britain and Northern Ireland an annual discount on their electricity bill regardless of their energy supplier. This community benefit is in action at Meikle Carewe Wind Farm near Netherley and is an option at RES’ proposed Hill of Fare Wind Farm near Banchory.

Almost 140 years since Blyth’s breakthrough he is being honoured for his remarkable work in wind generation – and a commemorative blue plaque was unveiled last week at his former Marykirk home as part of a Scottish Renewables event celebrating his work.

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