Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm, Beatrice, off the Caithness coast, has started commercial production, operator SSE said on Monday.
The 588 megawatt wind farm cost 2.5 billion pounds ($3 billion) and is the fourth largest wind farm in the world, the company said.
Beatrice is now producing enough energy to power 450,000 homes a year, SSE added.
SSE managing director for Renewables Jim Smith, said the project highlighted the huge progress the offshore wind industry had made in recent years.
“Today’s official opening marks the end of a 15-year journey that started in 2004 when SSE and Talisman Energy announced plans for a world-leading project at the Beatrice oil field to test technologies for deep water wind farms distant from the shore,” he wrote. “The stated goal of that test was to see if large scale developments like this could be delivered in more challenging site locations and provide a practical source of commercial scale renewable energy. Today, we can safely say that test has been passed with flying colours.”
Today’s opening was also welcomed by environmental campaigners and green business groups.
Director of WWF Scotland, Lang Banks, said “the addition of power from huge offshore wind farms such as Beatrice will help us to decarbonise even more of our economy, including our heating and transport sectors”.
Meanwhile, RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal said it was “great to see Prince Charles giving this landmark renewable energy project the royal seal of approval”.
Beatrice uses 7 MW wind turbines supplied by Siemens Gamesa.
“Beatrice represents a major investment by SSE and its partners in vital new energy infrastructure for this country,” he added. “A wide range of UK companies won contracts to work on this multi-billion pound project, and many more opportunities are coming up as the offshore wind industry continues to expand in the years ahead. The industry is building on our nation’s success as the global leader in offshore wind by investing up to £250m to develop the UK offshore wind supply chain between now and 2030.”
The news came as industry groups and experts responded with incredulity to the latest report from climate sceptic think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which alleges new offshore wind projects could lead to a doubling in consumer electricity bills.
Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd is a joint venture between SSE, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Red Rock Power Ltd.