A major new target to provide power more than eight million homes using wind energy produced off Scotland's coasts has been set by the Scottish Government.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said that setting the objective - which the Government hopes to reach by 2030 - is a "pivotal moment" for the offshore wind sector.

The capacity of Scotland's offshore wind production is currently one gigawatt (GW) but there are developments underway to bring this up to 5.6GW.

The fresh target announced today would need 11GW of energy from the sector by the end of this decade.

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Speaking about the new target, Mr Wheelhouse said: “This is a pivotal moment for the development of our offshore wind sector.

“Our seas are host to some of the best offshore wind resources in the world and our ambition to capitalise on our offshore wind generation capacity is part of the bold action we are taking to support economic recovery and become a net-zero society.

“The Scottish Government is determined to drive a green economic recovery with investment in renewable energy at the heart of it.

“We want to harness Scotland’s enviable wind resource for our energy system and unlock significant investment in the supply chain to create more green jobs across the sector.”

The Scottish Government has also published a new sectoral marine plan, with Mr Wheelhouse saying this identifies areas that are “appropriate for commercial scale developments”

The minister stressed: “The plan is based on extensive consultation and seeks to balance the vital importance of our marine environment and other key sectors with the huge ambition and opportunity we have for the offshore wind sector.”

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Fabrice Leveque, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: “Offshore wind is already powering hundreds of thousands of Scottish homes and this new plan will help grow an industry that’s vital to reach net-zero climate emissions by 2045.

“Each project creates hundreds of jobs and can help put Scotland on a path to a green recovery.”

He added: “In order to ensure local communities and businesses benefit, it’s imperative the UK and Scottish Governments work closely together to ensure as much work as possible goes to local supply chains.”

Earlier this month Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Conservative party conference that £160m was being committed by the UK Government to generate enough energy to power every home in the UK using offshore wind.

It was reported that the money would go towards creating 2,000 jobs, supporting 60,000 more and invest money into manufacturing in Scotland, Wales and northern England.

This commitment raised the 2030 UK target from 30GWs to 40GWs of offshore wind power.