Crown Estate plans 'new generation' of offshore wind power
Plans to lease seabed to encourage a new generation of offshore wind farms in Scotland's waters have been unveiled by Crown Estate Scotland.
The estate said the work was necessary to ensure that new projects are being built from the late 2020s onwards.
Any money that it raises from offshore renewables will be passed to the Scottish government for public spending.
Industry leaders said the move could boost the Scottish economy.
Two offshore wind farms - Robin Rigg and Hywind Scotland - are already operating in Scottish waters.
A further two are being built - the Beatrice project in the Moray Firth and the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, off Aberdeen.
As it can take up to 10 years to develop and construct a new offshore wind project, Crown Estate Scotland said work needs to start now to ensure new wind farms can get under way in the 2020s.
It has published a paper outlining a draft leasing process and asking for feedback to help shape the final approach.
The public body said it aims to support innovation, create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
John Robertson, senior energy and infrastructure manager at Crown Estate Scotland, said: "Using our seas to power Scotland is an important part of our economic and environmental well-being.
"To provide affordable, secure and clean energy, Scotland must continue to sustainably use its natural resources and grow the offshore wind sector."
The Scottish government is aiming to ensure that half of Scotland's heat, transport and electricity energy needs will be met by renewables by 2030.
Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish environment secretary, welcomed the publication of the Crown Estate Scotland's document.
"The potential benefits of offshore renewable energy to Scotland are enormous," she said.
"That is why it is important that Crown Estate Scotland makes available the right seabed locations at the right time, in order to contribute to delivery of our energy strategy, attract inward investment, develop new technology and continue to drive down the associated costs of offshore energy."
The UK government's energy minister, Claire Perry, said 15% of UK electricity came from wind last year - up from 3% in 2010.
"As technology costs come down, this will enable renewables to flourish," she added. "The opening up of more seabed areas for new offshore wind projects is another step towards achieving our low cost, low carbon future."
The move was also welcomed by industry body Scottish Renewables.
Its senior policy manager, Fabrice Leveque, said: "The offshore wind projects which are currently being developed in Scotland are already providing enormous economic benefits to our country.
"The Beatrice scheme in the Moray Firth, for example, will deliver up to £1.2bn into the UK and Scottish economy via employment and supply chain opportunities during its lifetime.
"Crown Estate Scotland's proposals set the tone for the future of this vibrant sector. New sites would allow us to capture more of our offshore wind resource and enable Scotland's burgeoning offshore wind supply chain to gear up and grow, delivering jobs and investment not just on our coasts, but across the country."
Crown Estate Scotland manages land and property on behalf of Scottish ministers, including the rights to offshore renewable energy out to 200 nautical miles.