The Scottish government has awarded planning consent to four major offshore wind energy projects.

The four schemes could generate a combined 2.3 GW and will now be able to bid for an offshore wind contract for difference (CfD), the UK’s new support mechanism for large-scale renewable energy schemes.

Consents have been granted to Mainstream Renewable Power’s Neart na Gaoithe project, Inch Cape Offshore Limited (ICOL), a joint venture partnership formed between Repsol Nuevas Energías UK Limited and EDP Renewables UK Limited, and projects Alpha and Bravo, which are being developed by Seagreen Wind Energy Ltd (Seagreen), a joint venture partnership formed between Fluor Ltd and SSE Renewables.

According to Mainstream Renewable Power, the 450 MW Neart na Gaoithe project will be the first large-scale offshore wind farm constructed and operated in Scottish waters to be directly connected to the Scottish electricity system. The £1.5 billion project is scheduled to begin pre-construction activities in 2015 and begin generating electricity by 2018.

The project will also be the first offshore wind farm in the UK to attract true non-recourse project finance at the construction stage.

The UK government introduced CfDs under the recent electricity reforms and has allocated a budget of £235 million in the first round of allocations for offshore wind and other "less established" renewable energy technologies.

The first round of bidding for CfD contracts is due to start in mid-October and approximately 800 MW of offshore wind is expected to win CfD support.

Sian Crampsie