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Big fan of wind farms? Take a peek inside a 260ft turbine

Towering over the Perthshire countryside, a wind turbine is taller than the Wallace Monument.

Over the past decade wind farms have been springing up across Scotland, and are now a common sight on our landscape.

But what's it like inside a turbine? Who works there and what do they do?

STV News got exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the Griffin wind farm in Perthshire.

Griffin wind farm: STV News got an exclusive look behind the scenes.
Griffin wind farm: STV News got an exclusive look behind the scenes. STV

Turbine number 22 is one of 68 here at Griffin. Towering over the Perthshire countryside, at more than 262ft, it's taller than the Wallace Monument.

Each of the statuesque structures here is capable of producing 2.3MW - that's enough electricity to power hundreds of thousands of mobile phones simultaneously.

The checks involved in scaling a turbine like this are rigorous.

First, a lengthy health and safety briefing, during which we're equipped with harnesses, hard hats, safety glasses and glows. Footwear is steel toe cap boots. Everything is checked, double checked and signed off.

Once at the site, we're told to wait in a specially designated "demarcation zone", a short distance from the turbine.

Sky high: The turbine is taller than Wallace Monument.
Sky high: The turbine is taller than Wallace Monument. STV

Technicians Glyn Reddick and Matthew Rae then contact the control centre in Perth so the turbine can be completely shut down before we go in. They'll be with us every step of the way.

Getting up the turbine is in a two-man lift. It's a tight squeeze, it's dark, it's noisy, and it takes around three minutes. For extra security, you're secured to part of the lift by one of many clips attached to your harness.

Should the lift break down, we've been told we'll have to clip ourselves onto the adjoining ladder which runs parallel to the lift and make our descent by climbing down.

Once up the lift, there's a short climb up a ten-meter ladder, through a hatch and finally, we've made it.

The views are breathtaking; you can see the countryside stretching for miles.

Look directly down, and the dizzying heights hit home, as you realise just how far up you are.

Perthshire: The Griffin farm is one of 16 operated by SSE Renewables.
Perthshire: The Griffin farm is one of 16 operated by SSE Renewables. STV

When the turbine is switched on, you can really feel the movement. On a gusty day there can be considerable sway.

The turbines work by positioning themselves - known as yawing - so they face the wind direction. The blades then slant to catch the wind, which in turn spins a generator to create electricity.

The technicians operate, maintain and repair the turbines. It requires a fair degree of physical stamina and a head for heights.

"It's definitely an interesting job," said Glyn.

"The weather can be challenging. You've got rain, snow, sun - it never seems to be comfortable up here.

"But personally I think it's great. I absolutely love it."

Green energy: SSE Renewables' Andrew Allan.
Green energy: SSE Renewables' Andrew Allan. STV

The Griffin farm is one of 16 operated by SSE Renewables. They've more than trebled their output over the past decade, and say they plan to treble it again over the next ten years.

"Currently we produce enough renewable energy to power 1.5 million homes across the UK and Ireland," said environment manager Andrew Allan.

"We have ambitious plans to continue that into the future. By 2030 we aim to have trebled our renewable output again.

"We think that's roughly enough to power about one fifth of the energy needs of Scotland as it currently stands."

Of course, wind energy has its detractors. Campaigners claim the turbines are a blight on the landscape, can damage wildlife and industrialise Scotland's green spaces.

The Scottish Government recently announced ambitious plans for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. They'll be hoping that wind farms such as this one will help play a part in helping them meet that target.

Download: The STV News app is Scotland's favourite and is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from Google Play. Download it today and continue to enjoy STV News wherever you are.

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