SAMSUNG Heavy Industries has announced plans to invest up to £100 million and create more than 500 jobs in Scotland.

The Korean conglomerate want to base its first European offshore wind project at the Energy Park at Methil, Fife, in what the company's chief executive Insik Roh said was "an exciting time for the Scottish renewable energy industry".

First Minister Alex Salmond praised the move as another example of Scotland's ability to attract investment from multinational companies.

However, no details were released about the timing of the project nor the recruitment process.

Scottish Enterprise, which is backing the initiative, confirmed work was under way to apply for the necessary planning permission, and the programme would start if and when successful testing of the technology was complete.

If it goes ahead, the plant will house gearbox assembly and blade manufacturing facilities.

In conjunction with the Fife project, Samsung has also signed a multi-million-pound deal with East Kilbride-based David Brown Gear Systems, a company owned by Clyde Blowers.

Mr Salmond, who announced Samsung's plans at the Scottish Offshore Wind and Supply Chain Conference in Aberdeen, said it reinforced Scotland's place in the development of the next generation of offshore wind turbines.

He said: "Samsung's choice of Scotland as its first base in Europe for renewable technology development is testament to the fact this country is fast becoming the European centre for research and development in offshore wind technologies.

"For Methil to be chosen as the test site for Samsung Heavy Industries' new 7MW wind turbine is another example of this country's ability to secure investment from global multinationals."

It was "a significant move in that it could see much-needed high-value employment in this area of Scotland," he added.

Mr Roh said: "The testing of the new 7MW offshore wind turbine at the Fife Energy Park signifies a milestone in the development of Samsung's new wind turbine generator system.

"We hope to contribute to the Scottish economy through successful testing and certification of our cutting-edge offshore wind turbine and ultimately through establishment of our manufacturing facility here in Methil."

Jim McColl, chairman and chief executive officer of Clyde Blowers Capital, said: "This is a huge vote of confidence by a major global business in the UK supply chain, and ultimately a boost for employment and future job creation.

"I am confident Samsung has the offshore market know-how and scale of resources to be a leading player in the offshore wind market."

He said David Brown's innovative and technologically advanced gearbox design would enable Samsung to deliver the next generation of offshore wind turbines and provide a lower- cost energy solution to its customers.

The development was also welcomed by Dr Richard Dixon, director of environmental lobbyists WWF Scotland.

He said: "While other parts of the economy are sluggish or even going backwards, the renewables industry is going from strength to strength. This investment will create jobs and help reduce carbon emissions, making it excellent news for Fife, for Scotland and for the environment.

"This investment is another vote of confidence in Scotland as a key location to do business in renewable energy. This is an industry which is already spending hundreds of billions around the globe every year, and we are now a key player in this rapidly growing sector."