PLANS for the world's largest commercial wave energy farm have been given the go-ahead.

Consent has been granted for the scheme which could see 50 devices placed in the waters off the north west coast of Lewis in the Hebrides

Edinburgh wave energy developer Aquamarine Power says the project along the coast at Lag na Greine, near Fivepenny Borve, described as one of the best wave energy locations in Europe, could power nearly 30,000 homes.

But the plans depend on the installation of an interconnector cable to take the extra green energy from Lewis to the mainland.

Last week energy giant SSE made clear it would not be able to commission work on an interconnector before 2017, raising fears the islands would lose major renewable energy developments.

The Scottish and UK governments are discussing how to fund an interconnector. Aqua-marine developed its Oyster wave generator at the European Marine Energy Centre on Orkney where two have been installed and are producing electrical power to the Grid.

The Oyster is a simple mechanical hinged flap connected to the seabed at 30ft-40ft depth. Each passing wave moves the flap, driving hydraulic pistons to deliver high pressure water via a pipeline to an onshore station where it drives the same sort of turbines that are in any hydro scheme.

Fergus Ewing, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, said: "This is another significant milestone for Scotland's wave sector. With 10% of Europe's wave power potential, and 25% of its offshore wind and tidal power potential, the opportunities for Scotland are enormous."

Aquamarine Power chief executive officer Martin McAdam said: "The goal of our industry is to become commercial, and to do this we need two things – reliable technologies and a route to market.

"Our engineers are working hard on getting the technology right and we now have a site where we can install our first small farm, with a larger-scale commercial build out in the years ahead."

Western Isles Council leader Angus Campbell, who has been campaigning for an interconnector for years, said it was excellent news and showed the growing appetite of major energy com-panies to locate in "Europe's area of best marine resource". He added: "Aquamarine Power's announcement adds further weight to the call for our transmission owner, SSE, to move quickly on construction of this link for which there is so much consented demand."

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said it was a fantastic boost for Scotland's marine renewables sector and would put Lewis on the map for wave energy.

"However, if Scotland is to rule the waves when it comes to marine renewables then it's vital we quickly resolve the issues of Grid connection and transmission costs to the Scottish islands," he said.

Niall Stuart, chief executive of industry body Scottish Renewables, said: "This is a fantastic milestone for the Scottish renewables industry and this project will make a significant contribution to our energy mix once it begins generating."

RSPB Scotland also welcomed the news.