SCOTLAND is to become home to the world’s largest floating offshore windfarm.

An application for a marine licence for the Hywind development off the north east coast has been approved by the Scottish Government.

Leading energy company Statoil will develop a pilot park of five floating turbines located some 15 miles off the coast of Peterhead, north of Aberdeen, with a generating capacity of 135GWh each year. It is expected the Hywind Scotland development could power nearly 20,000 homes.

Unlike conventional turbines, Hywind turbines will be attached to the seabed with power transported to the shore through a series of underwater cables.

John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, said: “Hywind is a hugely exciting project – in terms of electricity generation and technology innovation – and it’s a real testament to our energy sector's expertise and skilled workforce that Statoil chose Scotland for the world’s largest floating windfarm."

Maggie McGinlay, director of energy at Scottish Enterprise, also welcomed the announcement.

She said: "This is fantastic news for Scotland’s renewables industry as a whole, but in particular our growing offshore wind supply chain.

"We’ve been working closely with our companies to directly link them with Statoil for some considerable time to ensure they are in the best position possible to take advantage of the significant opportunities we know this development will bring.

“This announcement is a clear indication that Scotland’s growing strengths in offshore wind are recognised at an international level."

Statoil’s executive vice president for New Energy Solutions Irene Rummelhoff added: “Floating wind represents a new, significant and increasingly competitive renewable energy source.

"Our objective with developing this pilot park is to demonstrate a commercial, utility-scale floating wind solution, to further increase the global market potential."

Lang Banks, World Wildlife Fund Scotland director, said successful floating turbines could enable Scotland to secure even more clean energy from offshore wind in the future.

He said: "With the right political support for offshore wind and other renewable technologies, Scotland is well placed to become the EU's first renewable electricity nation by 2030.

"As we approach the Holyrood elections, we call on all political parties to set out their plans to create jobs and cut carbon by continuing to grow renewables in Scotland."