Plans for a major expansion at a north-east power plant have won crucial backing, paving the way for a £700milllion subsea energy link between Aberdeenshire and England.
The move, led by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (Shetl), is expected to create thousands of construction jobs and would significantly increase the amount of electricity that can be transferred around the UK.
The company tabled plans to build a 400kV sub-station and underground cabling near its existing Peterhead facility, on the edge of Boddam, earlier this year.
Now the ambitious project has been backed by Aberdeenshire Council planning officers.
They have called on members of the Buchan area committee to award planning permission when they meet to discuss the proposal next week.
The current UK set-up is at full-capacity, but the new subsea link would allow extra electricity to flow between Scotland and England and let more renewable energy feed into the grid.
Inefficiencies in the system were highlighted last year when six Scottish windfarms were paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation after being forced to shut down when it was too windy and the National Grid overloaded.
Shetl has teamed up with the National Grid to advance the plans, which would involve a two-gigawatt cable being run under the seabed from Boddam to Teesside. The scheme, known as the Eastern Link, could be ready by 2018, although the 400kV sub-station would need to be in operation by 2016.
The sub-station building is earmarked for land at Newton of Sandford near Peterhead power station, on the other side of the A90 commuter route.
A council planning department spokesman said last night: “Importantly, this proposal will help facilitate energy generation within the north-east, in line with national policy.
“It is acknowledged that the substation building, by virtue of its size and bulk, will have a significant visual impact on the approach to Peterhead.
“However, it is considered that the development can be accommodated within this landscape, subject to mitigation works.”
He added: “The proposal will also bring economic benefits in terms of jobs during the construction phase of the development, which will benefit the local economy.”
A Shetl spokesman said that the subsea link represented significant investment in the north-east corner.