RENEWABLES firms have been invited to apply to develop wind farms off Scotland in a move the Government hopes could unlock around £8 billion investment and help to slash carbon dioxide emissions.

Crown Estate Scotland has launched the first offshore wind leasing round to cover acreage off the country for a decade.

The ScotWind round is expected to pave the way to around 10 new commercial windfarms being developed off Scotland.

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Crown Estate Scotland reckons ScotWind could help deliver more than enough green electricity to power every Scottish household.

The organisation said the launch of the round was a huge step forward in kick-starting Scotland’s green recovery and meeting the official target to reduce carbon emissions to zero, net of amounts absorbed, by 2045.

Crown Estate Scotland estimates total investment in ScotWind Leasing projects could potentially surpass £8bn.

Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said the launch of the round marked a pivotal moment for the development of the country’s offshore wind sector and presented an opportunity to help develop the strategic economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Companies that apply for acreage will be required to submit a supply chain development statement. This must include information on where work will be completed.

However, it may be several years before construction work begins on any projects.

The first project is expected to start generating power in the late 2020s.

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Energy giants have shown strong interest in windfarm projects off Scotland.

Last week France’s Total acquired a 51 per cent stake in the project to build the giant Seagreen windfarm off the Angus Coast, which will involve around £3 billion investment.

SSE has led work on the development of Seagreen. It started producing power from the giant Beatrice windfarm off Caithness last year.

A spokesman for SSE's renewables business said it was delighted to see Crown Estate Scotland launch ScotWind.

"Renewable energy is going to play a vital role in building a clean and sustainable economic recovery from coronavirus," said the spokesperson. "This is an important step in maintaining the pipeline for future projects and delivering on targets for the deployment of offshore wind.”

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The last leasing round was completed in 2010 and covered the UK. Management of the Crown Estate in Scotland was devolved to the Scottish Government in 2017.

Crown Estate Scotland reckons projects developed under the ScotWind leasing round could help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over six million tonnes annually.