At today’s briefing, Mr Salmond also announced plans for talks involving Ofgem, National Grid and energy firms in Glasgow next week to help to resolve on-going concerns over the higher Grid connection charges levied on renewable energy producers north of the border.
Speaking after his meeting with The Crown Estate and the developers, Mr Salmond said: "This is excellent news for Scotland, our economy and environment and gives the green light for a massive multi-billion pound expansion of offshore wind power electricity generation.
"Scotland already holds a competitive advantage in developing offshore renewables – having as much as a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind energy and tidal energy potential and a world-class scientific capacity and skills base.
"The consortia involved in the two Scottish zones estimate a target capacity of 4.8 GW, subject to consent – representing enough electricity to power more than two million Scots households. And this is on top of the 6.4 GW of capacity we expect to realise from offshore wind projects planned in Scottish territorial waters.
"We are already on track to surpass our target of meeting 31 per cent of electricity demand from renewables by 2011 and offshore wind will play a big part in achieving our 50 per cent target by 2020. The Round 3 developments, led by world-leading companies, represent another huge step forward, bringing thousands of new jobs to this ever-growing area of our economy.
"We will be working closely with The Crown Estate and developers to ensure Scottish firms remain well-placed to link into supply chain requirements of the Round 3 developments right across the UK – with the total net worth of these projects estimated to be some £100 billion."
"Of course, we need the physical capital of a modern Grid infrastructure capable of carrying the power generated off our coast and on our hills. That is why our Energy Minister Jim Mather gave consent to the Beauly-Denny line on Wednesday – a massive contribution to Scotland’s realisation of our renewables ambition and a signal to the world that Scotland is the natural home for those with an interest in pursuing renewable energy.
"The energy ministers of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have today also announced new moves towards an offshore electricity transmission network linking our three countries, with a contract agreed to examine the feasibility of an Irish Sea offshore grid.
"A remaining concern for Scotland is how renewable energy developers north of the border are discriminated against by higher Grid connection charges – while many in London and the south west actually receive subsidies. I’m pleased to announce that next week Jim Mather is bringing together the National Grid, Ofgem and energy firms in a bid to resolve this issue."
Confirming the successful Round 3 bidders, Mr Baird said: "I am delighted that we have today announced the Development Partners for all nine Round 3 zones. We have been working very closely with the Scottish Government and a wide range of other interests to secure commitments from investors in offshore wind energy in the UK.
"The Crown Estate will continue to play an active role working closely with our new partners to deliver their offer of 32 GW – which equates to a quarter of the UK’s electricity needs.
"A series of supply chain events will be held across the UK in January, February and March to support the delivery of this growth industry and these will be hosted by The Crown Estate, the UK Government and the devolved administrations."
António Mexia, Chairman of EDP Renováveis, said: "Offshore wind energy is one of the biggest sources of renewable energy on the planet and still largely unexplored. The UK Round 3 is the biggest tender for renewables ever and marks the definitive commitment of the UK to an energy source that is not only clean but also economically viable. It is, therefore, with great pleasure that EDP Renováveis, as one on the most important wind energy companies in the world, will lead the development of the Moray Firth wind farm with our partners SeaEnergy. This new project fits perfectly into EDPR’s portfolio adding geographical and technological diversification in one of the lowest risk and most business friendly nations in the world."
Steve Remp, Chairman of SeaEnergy PLC said: "We are absolutely delighted that SeaEnergy have been awarded this zone in UK Round 3. This is a true testament to the reputation and expertise of our team who are very excited about working with our partners EDPR to develop this zone. The UK Round 3 awards mark a new dawn for Britain’s offshore wind potential, and coupled with our existing projects in Scotland and Taiwan we are very excited to be at the heart of it."
Peter Raftery, Seagreen Director said: "I am delighted that The Crown Estate has announced that Seagreen Wind Energy is the successful consortia for the Firth of Forth zone. The seas off Scotland represent an outstanding resource which, when harnessed, will make a very significant contribution to meeting Scotland and the UK’s ambitious renewable energy targets whilst also securing future energy supply. We look forward to working with The Crown Estate and all stakeholders in order to develop the zone to its full potential."
The Crown Estate has today announced the successful companies and consortia for each of the nine Round 3 offshore wind zones off the UK coast. All parties have signed Zone Development Agreements (ZDAs), and are now Development Partners along with The Crown Estate – which has responsibility for the seabed – to take the proposals through the planning consent phase. To ensure that the offshore power feeds efficiently into the National Grid, The Crown Estate has commissioned a study for the Outer Firth of Forth and Tay region. The Crown Estate works closely with the National Grid and the transmission companies to ensure that future planning of the transmission network takes into account the requirements of the Scottish developments.
Today Jim Mather announced that RPS Group have been awarded a contract to examine the feasibility of an offshore electricity transmission network linking Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. The study, on behalf of the Scottish Government, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Northern Ireland and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in Ireland, will look at potential sites for renewable energy generation in coastal waters.
The current charging regime requires electricity generators in Scotland to pay the UK’s highest transmission costs, while in parts of the south of England companies receive a subsidy. Generators in the north of Scotland face charges of around £21.58 per Kilowatt Hour, yet those in London receive £2.70 per kwH while more than twice that subsidy (£6.68) is paid out to firms in Cornwall, according to National Grid’s own figures. This means that Scottish generators produce 12 per cent of UK generation, but account for 40 per cent of the transmission costs – or about £100 million per year more than their proportionate share.
Next Wednesday Mr Mather will convene a meeting in Glasgow with Ofgem, National Grid and energy suppliers, with discussions facilitated by external mediator John Sturrock QC.