Offshore wind farm contracts worth £700 million ($955 million) have been awarded to 17 projects off Scotland.
They include some of the biggest names in the fossil fuel industry, which also have expertise in deep-sea drilling.
Shell and BP were among the winners as Crown Estate Scotland announced the results of the ScotWind leasing process, which covers more than 7,000 square kilometres of seabed.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has raised concerns about what the projects would mean for their industry.
Shell and ScottishPower secured joint offers for seabed rights to develop large floating wind farms at two sites, representing a total of 5 gigawatts off the eastern and north-eastern coasts of Scotland.
BP and German company EnBW were awarded a lease option off the eastern coast to develop the Morven wind farm with a total generating capacity of about 2.9 gigawatts, enough to power more than three million homes.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Monday was “possibly one of the most significant days in energy and industrial terms that Scotland has seen for a very, very long time”.
Most of the sites are on the eastern, north-eastern or northern coasts. Only one is on the western side of Scotland.
Shell New Energies is the lead applicant for the most expensive development, off the coast of Aberdeen. It is estimated to cost £86 million in option fees.
“Shell and ScottishPower can now look forward to generating floating wind power at significant scale in the UK to accelerate the country’s transition towards net zero,” said Wael Sawan, a renewables director at Shell.
“Floating wind plays to our strengths in deeper offshore projects and we are well placed to help advance the wider take-up of this important clean energy source.”
Of the 17 projects, a site in the north-east, where construction will be led by Scottish Power Renewables, has the highest capacity, with 3 gigawatts expected to be produced.
“Our ScotWind projects will make the best use of our fantastic natural resources to help power the UK’s transition from fossil fuels to renewables and a better future, quicker,” said ScottishPower chief executive Keith Anderson.
The developments, comprising floating, fixed and mixed turbines, are estimated to produce about 25 gigawatts of energy.
“What has been announced today – although there is a lot of work to be done to bring it to fruition – really has the potential not just to meet energy needs from renewable sources, but to position us as a major exporter in renewable energy and green hydrogen,” Ms Sturgeon said.
She said the projects bring massive opportunities for the economy.
The Scottish first minister said estimates suggested up to £1 billion ($1.36 billion) could be generated for every gigawatt of power – meaning the final benefits could total £25bn.
“So that raises the prospect of thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps, of jobs – good, high-quality green jobs – as we make that transition into net zero,” she said.
“This gives us the ability to make sure that we complete that transition, but we do it in a fair and a just way too.”
The SFF has raised concerns about the projects.
“In the rush to energy transition, it is vital that our industry’s voice is properly heard and that the fleet’s access to Scotland’s productive fishing grounds is protected,” said SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald.
“In particular, proper scrutiny must be given to developers’ claims that offshore wind farms and fishing activity can coexist with little change to existing patterns of activity, since our experience to date shows very strongly that the opposite is the case.”