THE world’s fourth largest offshore windfarm – and Scotland’s biggest – was officially opened on Monday.

Constructed in the North Sea, 13km off the coast of Caithness, Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm’s 84 turbines will generate 588MW of energy – enough to power 450,000 homes every year.

Doing so will save around 8 million tonnes of carbon emissions over its expected 25-year lifetime, playing a crucial role in Scotland’s efforts to combat climate change.

The £2.5 billion project is the largest-ever private investment in Scotland and was developed by Scottish-headquartered energy firm SSE Renewables, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Red Rock Power Limited.

Construction of the windfarm, Scotland’s largest source of renewable energy, has provided a £2.4bn economic boost to the UK, of which £1bn went directly to Scotland. It has so far supported 19,110 years of employment in the UK, of which 7180 were in Scotland.

Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse welcomed the official opening and said the site is a symbol of shifting energy priorities. He said: “I want to offer my sincere congratulations and those of the Scottish Government to everyone involved in completing the £2.5bn Beatrice Offshore Windfarm. At 588MW it is the largest offshore wind development in Scotland to date and can provide electricity for a huge number of homes and businesses.

“I am also very encouraged by the positive impacts the project has had, such as the regeneration of Wick harbour and the role Scottish fabricators and suppliers have played in its construction. To maximise economic opportunities a collaborative effort is required between governments and industry to ensure that our vision for a vibrant offshore wind sector in Scotland is achieved.

“There is a significant pipeline of consented projects, including two further consented sites locally, and, as we look to future licensing rounds, We will seek to fully exploit the wider offshore wind sector opportunities for the Scottish economy while showing due regard for our incredible marine environment. This site, in an area once the home to an active oil field, but now home to this tremendous renewable energy development, is now a very tangible example of the global low carbon transition that is now well underway.”

SSE Renewables will operate the Beatrice project, which will support up to 90 long-term jobs – from offshore technicians to office administrators – with the majority based in Wick.

Two Beatrice Community Benefit funds, totalling £6m, have been established to deliver sustainable investment while a further £28m was paid into a Coastal Community Fund, which will be delivered by the Scottish Government.

Prince Charles, The Duke of Rothesay, officially opened the Beatrice operations and maintenance base in Wick, which has seen a £20m investment in its harbour front, including the sympathetic renovation of two, 200-year-old buildings originally designed by renowned Scottish architect Thomas Telford.