THE green light has been given for construction of a £2.6 billion wind farm off the Scottish coast – which will be one of the largest in the world and provide a potential £860 million economic boost to the country.
The consortium behind the 84-turbine Beatrice scheme in the Outer Moray Firth has reached financial close on the project, representing one of the largest private investments in Scottish infrastructure ever made.
Work is expected to start at the operations and maintenance factory in Wick and the transmission works in Moray later this year.
Offshore construction will begin next year and the 588-megawatt wind farm is due to be operational by 2019, generating enough power for 450,000 homes.
Scottish energy giant SSE owns 40 per cent of the project while Danish fund management firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners has a 35 per cent stake and China-based SDIC Power owns 25 per cent.
Beatrice is expected to bring around 890 jobs annually to Scotland and benefit the UK economy by as much as £680 million during construction.
Contracts have already been placed with many UK-based suppliers, Paul Cooley, SSE’s director of renewables.
He added: “Around £10 million of investment is planned at Wick harbour to house the wind farm’s operations and maintenance facilities, and improving the existing RNLI facilities.”
Holyrood energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said it is “great news for the industry”.
He added: “The Beatrice offshore wind farm has the opportunity to deliver so much to Caithness and Scotland as a whole, in terms of employment and community benefit.
“Scotland’s renewables sector is stronger than ever and our early adoption of clean, green energy technology and infrastructure was the right thing to do.”
The deal has also been welcomed by industry leaders and environmental campaigners.
Lindsay Roberts, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Beatrice is the first commercial offshore wind farm to reach this stage of development in Scottish waters. It’s fantastic that the partners in the project will now be moving ahead with construction.
“Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resource, and projects like Beatrice are enabling us to capitalise on that in both environmental and economic terms.”
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “This single project will almost quadruple our offshore wind capacity, helping to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as well as creating jobs and supporting local economic renewal.”