Highland councillors have been advised to back controversial plans to build the world’s largest offshore wind farm off the Scottish coast.
The £4.5 billion project would see 339 turbines, some reaching 670ft above sea level, in the Moray Firth, covering a total of 114 square miles off Caithness.
Anti-windfarm campaigners claim the project proposed by Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (Morl) – made up of a consortium of energy firms – would destroy marine wildlife and be “a blot on the landscape”.
However, planning officials have told councillors they raise no objection to the plan, which developers say could create hundreds of jobs and provide electricity for a million homes.
The council is one of the bodies being consulted over the development, and the final consent will be granted by the Scottish Government regulator Marine Scotland.
Unlike onshore developments, if the council decides not to support the development, there would be no automatic public inquiry.
If it is given the go-ahead, the windfarm would be a major boost to the Scottish Government’s target of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of the country’s electricity demand from renewables by the end of the decade.
The local authority says it has only received one objection to the plan, from the RSPB, which is worried about the potential impact to seabirds.
Marine Scotland has received eight objections, five of which come from the Highland area.
According to the background papers, none of the 12 community councils consulted, which included Helmsdale, Brora, Golspie and Dornoch, responded.
Stuart Young, a consultant for Communities Against Turbines Scotland and chairman of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, said: “They are going to be in people’s eyes and in their windows. It will be inescapable. They will be a blot on the landscape which will be left for future generations to deal with.”
Morl is a joint venture between Spanish/Portuguese firm EDP Renewables and Spanish oil and gas company Repsol Nuevas Energias.
The proposal has attracted vocal opposition from a number of campaigners, including American tycoon Donald Trump, who is fighting plans for a similar offshore windfarm off the Menie Estate where he has his Aberdeenshire golf course.
Morl say the proposals represented the culmination of three years of development work, data gathering, extensive environmental studies and broad consultation. Work, if approved, would start in 2015, with completion by 2020.
The wind farm, they claim, could produce about the same as a conventional power station.
The power would be collected by up to eight offshore electrical platforms, before being sent ashore by a cable under the seabed to Fraserburgh.