Go Ahead for Offshore Wind farm

The Crown Estate, a UK government agency, has granted offshore wind rights for energy companies in the Moray Firth and the Firth of Forth.

It is believed the development could lead to 1,000 new wind turbines generating nearly five gigawatts of wind power.

Jobs could also be created in manufacturing, research, engineering, installation, operation and services.

The move comes just days after the Scottish government’s approval of the controversial upgrade to the Beauly to Denny transmission line of pylons from the Highlands to central Scotland.

Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy said Scotland was the windiest country in Europe and the conditions were being created for the energy industry to invest in harnessing it.

He added: "This is one of the strongest signals yet that Scotland is right at the heart of the UK’s commitment to a low carbon, energy secure, prosperous future.

"But it’s also great news for the manufacturing industry and supply chain in Scotland."

The Crown Estate is the owner of the UK’s coastal seabeds and this third round of grants covers the Moray Firth zone, which will be developed by a partnership involving EDP Renewables and SeaEnergy, and the Firth of Forth of zone, which will be developed by a partnership involving SeaGreen Wind Energy and Airtricity, as well as Fluor.

About 3.2 million homes could be powered by 4.7GW of electricity, according to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The Scottish rights are among nine being granted across the UK.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "Our policies in support of offshore wind energy have already put us ahead of every other country in the world."

A £1.5m grant has also been agreed for Fife firm Burntisland Fabrications to support supply chain.

Ian Scrimger, the firm’s business development manager, said: "This is a great opportunity for the UK manufacturing industry and the supply chain creating thousands of jobs."

Successful bids for nine new offshore wind farm zone licences within UK waters have been announced.

A consortium including Npower and Norway’s Statkraft won the licence for the biggest zone, in Dogger Bank, which could produce nine gigawatts of energy.

Turbines in the nine zones could generate up to 32 gigawatts of power, a quarter of the UK’s electricity needs.

The winners have signed exclusive agreements with the Crown Estate, which owns the UK seabed.

Proposals for the wind farms will now go through planning and consent stages.

It will create one of the biggest infrastructure projects for wind energy in the world, with construction beginning in 2014 at the earliest.

The second largest zone, with a potential energy yield of 7.2 gigawatts, is at Norfolk Bank. The wind farm licence there has been won by a consortium of Scottish Power Renewables and Sweden’s Vattenfall Vindkraft.

Speaking on behalf of the joint venture, Keith Anderson said the companies were "delighted" to have been awarded the development rights.

"It will be a major engineering challenge, but the combined experience of both partners acquired over decades in the energy business will help us deliver a project that will deliver enough green power to meet the equivalent annual electricity demand of more than five million homes in the UK," he said.

This is the third time companies have had a chance to bid for zones.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the government’s policies to support offshore wind energy had put the UK ahead of other countries.

"This new round of licences provides a substantial new platform for investing in UK industrial capacity," he added.

"The offshore wind industry is at the heart of the UK economy’s shift to low carbon and could be worth £75bn and support up to 70,000 jobs by 2020," he said.

The turbines will be erected in water depths of up to 60m, compared with 25m for previous rounds. They will be positioned up to 205km off the coast, compared with 25km currently.