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

May 15, 2024
MEMBER NEWS: Industry innovator pays tribute to Aberdeenshire’s ‘father of wind power’

RES, the world’s largest independent renewable energy company, has praised the remarkable work of Scottish engineer, James Blyth, in pioneering wind power in the late 1800s.

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.

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.

Image courtesy of Scottish Renewables

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AREG is the original energy transition organisation, working on behalf of members to empower the energy supply chain and champion its expertise. Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to find out more about membership.

AREG has played an important role in the growth of Scotland’s renewable energy sector, engaging the supply chain and developing the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre. However, we are only at the very beginning of the transition that AREG was established to both lead and support so there are still opportunities for companies to get into the constantly evolving renewables supply chain. We look forward to continuing our work together as renewables builds on its place as Scotland’s main source of power, and as we seek to deliver real change in the crucial areas of heat and transport.

Scottish Renewables

Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce has worked closely with AREG since its formation. The recent progress in the developments of offshore wind projects by Equinor and Vattenfall are as a result of the work of the group over many years. The north-east is known as the oil and gas capital of Europe. At the Chamber, we believe the region must evolve its position to being recognised as the energy capital. Whilst hydrocarbons will continue to be essential in driving our economy for years to come, the generation of renewable resources will play an increasingly important role in providing cost-effective power, innovative development and economic growth.

Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce

The enthusiasm and dedication of the early group that would become AREG was fundamental in us choosing to launch All-Energy in Aberdeen. The first tiny show was held in 2001, and AREG’s Chairman at the time, Jeremy Cresswell, played such an active role that I often describe him in terms such as All-Energy’s ‘midwife’. All-Energy is now the UK’s largest renewable and low carbon energy exhibition and conference in terms of number of attendees, space booked, and number of exhibiting companies. As AREG became firmly established, their presence and support for the event grew spectacularly over the years. We thank them most sincerely for their invaluable input.


Vattenfall has forged a strong working relationship with AREG through the development of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre. AREG has worked tirelessly on behalf of the North East and it can take enormous credit for the growth of sustainable energy in the region and the path it has cleared for the region to capture further investment.


Aberdeen City and Shire is emerging as a key location for renewables by successfully transferring its world-class oil and gas expertise into the sector and AREG has done much to advance this through a broad range of initiatives. It has acted as a catalyst in driving further investment in the local economy by engaging with companies, Government, public bodies and existing projects and we have been pleased to support their efforts. Scottish Enterprise will continue to engage with AREG as we increase Scotland’s use of renewable energy.

Scottish Enterprise