The Scottish Government approved plans for an offshore wind testing centre despite admitting it would have an impact on tourism and recreation in the north-east.
First Minister Alex Salmond insisted previously that Scotland’s tourism industry would grow alongside the development of offshore windfarms.
But a report – which helped form the basis of Energy and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing’s approval of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) – highlighted an “adverse visual impact” on Royal Aberdeen, Murcar Links and Trump International golf clubs.
Mr Ewing insisted last night that the 100MW project – a joint venture between Vattenfall, the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (Areg) and Technip Offshore Wind – was of national economic significance and the benefits outweighed the negative effects.
The government, which claims the offshore wind sector will support 28,000 jobs by 2020, said it was key to developing technologies to meet renewables targets.
However, Mr Ewing was unable to say how many jobs would be created during the construction phase of the testing centre and whether the turbines would be built in Scotland.
A report prepared by government agency Marine Scotland said the development would support only 25 jobs over the project’s 22-year lifetime – which the report described as “768 job years” worth of employment.
It also revealed that SNP ministers accepted wind power was “variable and cannot be relied on as a constant source of power”.
The report said, however, it was a necessary component of a balanced energy mix for Scotland.
And the Scottish Government said studies found the majority of tourists were generally positive towards windfarms.
US property developer Donald Trump, who has vowed to take legal action to stop the testing centre being built in sight of his £750million golf resort at the Menie Estate near Balme-die, hit out at the revelations.
“This could potentially create just 25 jobs – but that is not what they are presenting to people,” he said. “For them to talk about 800 job years may be the most disingenuous thing I have ever head.
“I don’t know how they can sit there with a straight face and talk about all the jobs this will create – it is disgraceful.”
The Trump Organisation’s international development director, George Sorial, said: “Fergus Ewing is the minister for both tourism and for energy – so which one is more important to him? I think this is obvious following this decision. It is a ridiculous setup.
“All this says is what we have been saying for more than a year now.
“You don’t need to commission a great big study to cometo the conclusion that tourism and an industrial zone do not mix.”
The report stated that the government accepted there was a risk of some adverse effects on tourism, both in relation to the other golf courses and more generally.
It added that ministers noted there were golf courses elsewhere in the UK that “co-exist” with offshore windfarms.
Mr Ewing said the turbines would have the capacity to produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 49,000 homes in Aberdeen.
Michael Rieley, policy manager for industry group Scottish Renewables, said offshore windfarms were more productive than land-based ones.
“In the European market, offshore wind turbines are typically 4MW in size,” he said. “This is compared to onshore wind turbines, which are around 2MW.
“The test centre will be a European hub for research and development of the next generation of wind turbines that will be more efficient and cost-effective for consumers.”
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