One of the world's largest wave energy farms is to be built off the coast of Lewis, First Minister Alex Salmond announced yesterday.

Scottish ministers have approved a wave electricity generating station with a four megawatt capacity on the island which last year missed out on the chance to host Europe's largest wind farm.

Up to 70 jobs will be created by the Siadar Wave Energy Project which is a collaboration between npower renewables and Inverness-based technology company Wavegen.

Describing the project as "a significant step in Scotland's journey to become a world leader in renewables", Mr Salmond added: "The Siadar wave farm will be one of the largest consented wave electricity generating stations in the world.

"It is the first commercial wave farm in Scotland and is starting with a capacity to power around 1800 homes. This is proof of Scotland's unique opportunities in renewables and evidence that we are already on the way to seizing every opportunity to maximise our natural resources and capability to generate clean, green energy."

He added: "The Scottish Government's six-point economic recovery programme identifies the renewables sector as a key strength of our economy and one which continues to grow through the current downturn.

"I know that the community is fully supportive of npower's plans for Siadar. This is good news for the Western Isles and for Scotland but its long-term potential is global."

Last April, ministers refused an application for 181 giant wind turbines at Barvas Moor on Lewis. The proposal had bitterly divided the island with the communities near Siadar being among those most strongly opposed.

Angus Campbell, leader of Western Isles Council, said: "This is welcome news and I am glad that the Scottish Government is recognising the renewable energy potential of the Outer Hebrides by consenting this project.

"We have always taken the view that the Outer Hebrides has a wide range of potential opportunities in the production, storage and use of renewable energy and wave power is certainly an exciting prospect for the future."

Environmentalists were also positive. RSPB Scotland, which opposed the giant wind farm, welcomed the new wave energy farm.

Its Western Isles conservation officer, Martin Scott, said: "The Siadar scheme is a great example of a renewable energy project that's located sensitively and won't harm wildlife and the environment so we've supported it throughout."

The scheme will involve building a causeway out about 200 metres and a breakwater with 10 concrete caissons placed on the seabed. There will be 36 to 40 turbines in the caissons to generate electricity.

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