A MAJOR wind farm featuring 277 turbines could be installed off the coast of Caithness if Scottish ministers approve the project to power almost 800,000 homes.
Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) has submitted an application to the Scottish Government for consent to develop the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm in the Outer Moray Firth.
The proposed £3 billion development, on the north-western point of the Smith Bank, would be located eight miles south-east of Wick.
Between 142 and 277 turbines, depending on the size of each structure, could be placed on the seabed.
If the project is given the go-ahead, it is estimated it will provide 1000MW of electricity to power over 796,000 homes. It is also estimated, in supporting documents, the proposal could bring up to 950 jobs to the Far North.
BOWL is a joint venture by SSE Renewables and Repsol Nuevas Energias UK.
Jim Smith, managing director of SSE Renewables, said offshore wind represents an outstanding resource which, when harnessed, will make a significant contribution to meeting EU renewable energy goals for 2020.
"This is an important milestone for the project and we look forward to working with the relevant stakeholders to ensure a positive outcome for the application," he said.
"If the planning application is successful, any final decision to invest in the project is unlikely to be taken before 2014 at the earliest."
The application was formally submitted to Marine Scotland, the Scottish Government directorate that will process it.
The wind-farm site is approximately 11km north-east of the world’s first deep-water wind-farm development, the two-turbine 10MW Beatrice Demonstrator Project.
The Beatrice Demonstrator turbines are owned by SSE and Talisman and have been operational since 2007.
Caithness and Sutherland Regeneration Partnership programme manager Eann Sinclair said the economic benefits the mass-scale wind farm could bring the Far North are massive.
"The renewable industry sector is going to have a big part to play in the future of the North Highland economy," he told the John O’Groat Journal.
"The predominant point of interest for us is whether they bring onshore jobs with them and in terms of offshore development in the Moray Firth, it is going to be places like Wick that are going to benefit from the wind farm.
"Due to its close proximity to the site, Caithness will be in a greater place to meet the needs from the operation and maintenance aspect of the development than production as companies will want to be based in the area to oversee the project."
Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP Rob Gibson also welcomed the application to Scottish ministers saying it showed the confidence that exists in the renewable industry.
"The application shows that there is a strong belief that wind and marine energy is the way forward to meet the needs of Scotland’s energy demands," he said.
"Wick harbour will have an important role to play in harnessing this new technology from the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm and in other future projects."