SCOTLAND’S biggest ports operator has announced plans to create a £40 million renewable energy hub at Leith in Edinburgh that is the size of around 100 football pitches.

Forth Ports said the proposed 175 acre development would help Edinburgh and Scotland recover from Covid-19 and meet carbon emissions targets, as well as supporting up to 3,000 jobs.

Central to the project is a new riverside marine berth capable of accommodating the world’s largest offshore wind installation vessels.

Behind this, 140 acres of land will be opened up for renewables manufacturers and other businesses in the Scottish supply chain.

“That’s a much bigger or opportunity to regenerate jobs for the Leith area, for Edinburgh and for wider Scotland,” Forth Ports group chief executive Charles Hammond said.

Its proximity to the North Sea and the natural deep waters of the Firth of Forth made Leith an “ideal location” to support planned and future offshore wind projects, Mr Hammond said.

Wind farms already being developed include Neart na Gaoithe off the Fife coast, a £1.8 billion project led by EDF Renewables UK, and Inch Cape off the Angus coast, which will have up to 72 turbines and power up to one million homes. Also off the Angus Coast is Seagreen, a £3bn offshore wind farm development owned by SSE Renewables and expected to power more than 1.6m homes.

Longer term, the leasing of new seabed around Scotland for windfarm development had the potential to “create enough work for this renewables hub for the next 30 years,” Forth Ports said.

Mr Hammond said the renewables hub would create a new industrial area for Edinburgh and support good quality industrial jobs in the capital.

“It’s a good example of private sector investment leading the recovery from the pandemic,” he said. “So I think it’s important for Edinburgh and also for Leith, which is still an area of high deprivation – particularly in relation to the rest of Edinburgh. It’s important to give these job opportunities locally to people in Leith as we start to develop this industry.”

The riverside marine berth will have a heavy lift capability of up to 100 tonnes per square metre for the loading in and out of installations and component parts such as piles, jackets, towers, nacelles – engine housings – and blades.

This will be backed up by 35 acres of adjacent land for logistics and marshalling.

While planning the larger site behind this for supply chain businesses, Mr Hammond said the company visited a tower factory in Bilbao, Spain, and the Siemens blade factory in Hull.

“We wanted to make sure the land could take the size and scale of these large-scale renewables manufacturers, and it can,” he said.

No planning permission is needed, as Forth Ports is adapting an existing structure. However it does need a licence from Marine Scotland, which manages Scotland’s seas and freshwater fisheries with its partners. The aim is to start construction in early 2022 and be finished by the third quarter of 2023.

Forth Ports said the investment was supported by its shareholders.

Michael Matheson, the Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport, said: “This significant investment from Forth Ports to develop the Port of Leith places them in an ideal position to harness the offshore wind opportunities in the North Sea, creating good green jobs and supporting a just transition to net-zero – not just for the city of Edinburgh but the wider area and beyond.”

The Scottish Government wants to increase offshore wind capacity to 11 GW of energy installed by 2030 – enough to power more than eight million homes.

City of Edinburgh Council leader, councillor Adam McVey, said: “The increase in jobs for people in Leith and across Edinburgh is hugely welcome and underlines our economic resilience as a city.”

Forth Ports owns and operates eight commercial ports in the UK – Tilbury on the Thames, Dundee on the Firth of Tay and six on the Firth of Forth – Leith, Grangemouth, Rosyth, Methil, Burntisland and Kirkcaldy.