On what the UK secretary of state for trade and industry Alistair Darling called a ground-breaking day for green energy, construction started on what will be Europe's largest onshore wind farm while the UK government began its consultation into how best to bring about a five-fold increase in renewable energy generation.

The new GBP300 million Whitelee wind farm is located in Scotland and will be operated by ScottishPower. The farm is expected to have 140 turbines within three years, which will harness enough wind energy to power 200,000 homes and save around 250,000 tonnes of harmful CO2 each year.

As Europe’s largest onshore wind farm, Whitelee represents a great step forward for the UK in tackling climate change, and is crucial to meeting the government’s targets for green energy, commented ScottishPower chief executive Philip Bowman. Of course, Whitelee is not the end of the story. If we are to deliver more clean energy to people’s homes, we have really got to keep up the momentum on the other big onshore wind farms in Scotland which are currently in planning.

The UK government has also begun its consultation seeking views from industry, investors and other stakeholders on how to reach the aim set out in the Energy Review of getting 20% of the UK’s electricity from renewables by 2020.

A key question in the consultation is whether the most effective way of increasing the amount of clean energy we produce is by the ‘banding’ of the Renewables Obligation (RO) for different types of renewable energy. This gives a greater economic incentive for the renewables sector to generate more power from emerging technologies such as offshore wind farms and biomass plants while tailoring support to cheaper technologies like landfill gas and co-firing.

There is also a commitment to increase the level of RO from its current limit of 15.4% by 2015 up to a maximum of 20% by 2020.

As well as expanding the large-scale renewables sector the government is also looking to increase the amount of smaller-scale, localized electricity production. In line with this, a statutory consultation on a small number of changes to the RO legislation is underway.

These changes include allowing agents to act on behalf of small generators for matters such as completing accreditation forms and claiming ROCs, allowing agents to amalgamate the output of two or more small generators for the purposes of claiming ROCs, and removing an administrative process whereby all generators are required to have what are known as sale and buyback agreements.

The consultation will also look at removing the caps on co-firing of energy crops from April 1, 2007 while retaining the 10% cap for co-firing of other forms of biomass.