EMPLOYMENT in the renewables industry in Scotland has reached record levels and is set to increase, a survey has found.

News of the research findings coincided with the announcement that the University of Dundee is to open a £2 million Marine Renewables Test Centre in a move it believes could help the industry create thousands of jobs in the country.

The survey for Scottish Renewables found the number of jobs in the sector increased by 5% annually in the year to last summer, to 11,695 on a full time equivalent basis, from around 11,150.

Noting that the growth in employment had occurred amid economic uncertainty, the industry body said the findings showed the sector represented an important source of jobs in Scotland.

"Renewables is proving it can be a significant contributor to many local economies throughout the country with emerging sectors such as offshore wind and marine energy already playing their part in creating much needed job opportunities," said Joss Blamire, Senior Policy Manager for Scottish Renewables.

The total of jobs recorded in Glasgow, 2132, was higher than in any other area.

Lothian ranked second with 2010 jobs while the Highlands and Islands had the third highest total, 1459.

The biggest share, 45% of the total jobs were in the wind energy sub-sector. Some 3400 of these posts were connected with onshore projects while around 1840 related to offshore wind-power generation.

When the survey was completed last summer, 54% of the 541 respondents said they expected to employ more people in the next 12 months.

A further 42% predicted their employment would stay the same

Professor Rod Jones, head of the new test centre at the University of Dundee, said the facility would help achieve predictions the renewables sector will create up to 40,000 jobs and generate £30bn of investment in Scotland.

The centre will provide facilities in which experts can address key challenges associated with developing wind and marine energy generating facilities.

Mr Jones noted: "Although considerable progress has been made in developing and manufacturing turbines, the main challenges now lie in the design, commissioning and deployment of key structural components such as concrete foundations for offshore wind farms."

Scottish Renewables's Mr Blamire added: "Market reforms in the electricity sector, planning issues and connecting projects to the grid were all cited as potential barriers that could get in the way of future growth."

Fergus Ewing, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism said the Dundee test centre would complement facilities at the University of Edinburgh and the European Marine Energy Centre off Orkney.