£300m offshore wind farm project given go-ahead by Swedish firm Vattenfall
Swedish power company Vattenfall has given the green light to the £300 million construction of Scotland's largest offshore wind test and demonstration facility.
The project was fought by US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who lost a Supreme Court bid to halt the development after complaining it would spoil the view from his golf resort at the Menie estate on the Aberdeenshire coast.
Vattenfall said its team and contractors will now focus on building the 11-turbine Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm project safely and "help establish the north-east as an international centre for offshore wind innovation".
Onshore construction near Blackdog, Aberdeenshire, will start later this year and offshore work will begin in late 2017. The wind farm is scheduled to generate power in spring 2018 and operate for 20 years or more.
Vattenfall said it is now the sole owner of Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm Limited, the company behind the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC), after acquiring the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group's 25% share.
Gunnar Groebler, senior vice president and head of business area wind at Vattenfall, said: "Vattenfall, Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG), the Crown Estate, the Scottish Government and many others have been working since consent in 2013 to deliver the project and support the increasing competitiveness of the offshore wind sector.
"Now the Vattenfall team and our contractors will focus on building the project safely and help establish the north-east of Scotland as an international centre for offshore wind innovation.
"Vattenfall's green light for the EOWDC underlines our long-term ambition to grow our wind power capacity, including in the UK."
Paul Wheelhouse, minister for business, innovation and energy, said: "This is great news for the industry. Scotland is admired around the world for our work in renewable energy.
"This project will keep our nation at the forefront of innovation by allowing energy companies to identify new ways to reduce operating costs.
"We're working hard to ensure offshore wind projects can help generate the low carbon electricity supply Scotland needs and the associated high-quality engineering jobs Scotland wants."
The news comes after a legal challenge from RSPB Scotland to the granting of consent for four major offshore wind farms was upheld.
The bird protection charity had objected to the Scottish Government's consent for the developments in the Forth and Tay regions.
A petition for judicial review of the decision has now been granted after hearings at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
WWF Scotland welcomed the Vattenfall announcement.
Climate and energy policy officer Fabrice Leveque said: "This is very positive news and provides a welcome boost to Scotland's offshore wind sector.
"Scotland has 25% of Europe's offshore wind resource and this new development provides a great opportunity to progress on capturing the benefits at lowest cost and least impact to the environment."
Patrick Harvie MSP, the Scottish Greens' co-convener said: "This investment really is welcome news for the North East and for Scotland, especially in a week where the UK government abolished the DECC, the department responsible for dealing with climate change, and details of the scrapping of a carbon capture scheme in Peterhead came to light.
"The green group of MSPs will continue to pressure the Scottish Government to live up to its Paris agreement obligations while demonstrating that this type of offshore wind energy provides a safer and more viable energy option than fracking and old fossil fuel methods."
Lindsay Roberts, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: "We have one of the best offshore wind resources in Europe and it's hugely exciting to see development happening in our waters right now, with hundreds of jobs in offshore wind created in recent months in Campbeltown, Nigg and Wick."
Aberdeenshire East SNP MSP Gillian Martin said the announcement "leaves those who have spent the week talking down offshore wind in Scotland looking pretty foolish".
She added: "Needless to say, reports of the death of the offshore wind industry in Scotland have been greatly exaggerated - it's got a healthy and vibrant future ahead of it."