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By Martin Kelly
A windfarm that will generate enough electricity to power three quarters of a million homes has been given the go-ahead by Highland Council.
The project that will see 277 turbines installed on the seabed of the Moray Firth has been hailed by local politicians as the one that will "put the far north on the map" and turn the area into the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy.
The turbines, which will cover 50 square miles, will be located in the Outer Moray Firth on the north-western point of the Smith Bank and are expected to generate more than three and a half times the amount of electricity needed by the Highlands.
The site is approximately 7 miles to the north-east of the world’s first deep water wind farm development, the two-turbine (10MW) Beatrice Demonstrator Project, and builds on the success of that project.
Local councillor Willie Mackay predicted a massive jobs boost after it emerged the construction alone would see a £25million injection into the Highland economy, and £313million for the Scottish economy.
"I am very excited about this," he said. There are substantial opportunities for employment and wealth with developments like this.
"Saudi Arabia are world leaders in oil production and when you think of that country you think of wealth and the benefits that can come with substantial employment. We have a huge untapped resource here and we could be world-leaders in offshore energy."
Another councillor, Alex MacLeod said: "The importance of getting this right cannot be overstated. This project will put the far north on the map as the place to invest in wind energy."
The project by Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited has yet to be approved by the Scottish Government. Experts estimate that the construction, a joint venture between SSE Renewables and Repsol Nuevas Energias UK, could begin in 2015 with power coming ashore as early as 2018.
Richard Escott, head of offshore development for SSE Renewables, said: "The project represents a substantial investment in the region and will bring significant benefits to the local economy. As we await final determination of the offshore element of the project, we will continue our open, ongoing engagement with the local community to ensure they are kept informed at every stage."
MEANWHILE, Evance Wind Turbines, the leading UK manufacturer of small wind turbines, has announced the opening of its new Scottish office in Glasgow. After winning a number of corporate accounts, combined with growing private sales, Evance has increased investment in its business north of the border.
"This is a very exciting time for us," commented Tim Sammon, Director of Evance Wind Turbines.
"Based in our new office we have a team dedicated to providing a high quality service to our Scottish customers, as well as additional support for our resellers."
With its proven reliability and efficiency in all weather conditions the Evance R9000 is the most popular small wind turbine in the UK. Last year over 25% of R9000 installations were in Scotland - enabling home owners, farmers and communities escape fuel poverty and fix their electricity costs for 20 years.
"We are also seeing a growing interest in our small wind turbines from large businesses which incur massive energy costs and pay carbon tax. As our R9000 turbine is small, it can be deployed quickly in multiples - unlike larger turbines - and generates a significant supply of energy, so immediately reduces a business, operating expense and locks down future energy costs," Mr Sammon added.