Scotland's offshore wind sector could produce 28,000 jobs
Scotland's offshore wind industry could create 28,000 direct jobs and generate £7.1bn of investment over the next decade, according to a new report.
Scottish Renewables said the sector provided Scotland with its greatest economic opportunity in a generation.
The study suggested a further 20,000 posts could be created indirectly.
Publication of the report comes a week after plans for the world's first floating wind farm were announced by First Minister Alex Salmond.
Potential sites include in the sea off Lewis and Aberdeenshire.
Norwegian state-owned energy company Statoil has been assessing the locations ahead of progressing the floating farm proposal further.
The new study, carried out by consultancy firm IPA Energy + Water Economics, is said to be the first comprehensive research into the potential impact of offshore wind on the Scottish economy.
It suggests 28,000 jobs could be created directly and a further 20,000 posts in related businesses.
Currently 463 people are directly employed in the sector in Scotland.
The report, titled "Scottish Offshore Wind: Creating an Industry", outlines four alternative visions for the industry's future growth and potential to create tens of thousands of jobs.
But it warns that significant employment will only be achieved with investment in port facilities, national electricity grid reinforcement and skills.
Looking at the best-case scenario in terms of job creation, the report suggested an industry on the scale of the oil and gas sector could emerge by 2020.
A previous report on the potential benefits of harnessing wave and tidal power suggested £2.5bn could be spent in Scotland and 5,300 jobs created by 2020.
Industry forum Scottish Renewables and development agency Scottish Enterprise commissioned the study on offshore wind.
Jenny Hogan, director of policy at Scottish Renewables, said it confirmed that the area could become one of the biggest employers over the next 10 years.
She said: "However, it's also clear that none of this can be taken for granted.
"Other parts of the UK and ports all over Europe are all fighting tooth and nail to secure investment and the economic benefits that offshore manufacturing and associated activity will bring.
"While Scotland has fantastic resources and facilities, if we are to attract major inward investors and grow the supply chain, we need to develop key ports and manufacturing facilities, as well as securing necessary grid connections and upgrades."
Adrian Gillespie, senior director of energy and low carbon technologies at Scottish Enterprise, said Scotland was in a "wonderful position" to reap the economic benefits of the move to low-carbon electricity.
He added: "We have already seen substantial new employment in Scotland as a result of offshore wind in areas such as design and project management, subsea services and offshore wind substructures and plant."
Scotland's Energy Minister Jim Mather said the report showed the "fantastic competitive advantage" that exists in Scotland for developing offshore wind.
He added: "It highlights the considerable economic opportunities for Scotland, supporting up to 48,000 Scottish jobs while delivering energy security and cutting emissions."
Commenting on the study, WWF Scotland's Director, Dr Richard Dixon, said the report confirmed a "long-held belief" that Scotland was on the verge of something "truly huge".
He added: "Renewable energy has a critical role to play in helping Scotland reduce our climate change emissions.
"With careful planning we can fully tap into offshore wind, wave and tidal power while also safeguarding the nation's tremendous marine environment."