Over 20,000 homes will have their energy provided from low-grade wood from a new Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant in Moray.
Work on the £74million project near Craigellachie was formally launched on Friday by the chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.
The eco-friendly project will use low-grade wood to generate energy for the nearby Macallan distillery, providing 90% of the steam needed to distil the whisky – while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to an equivalent of removing 8000 cars from the road.
£26million has been provided by the UK Government’s Green Investment Bank for the project, with the remaining funding guaranteed by bonds from the UK Treasury.
Mr Alexander said: “There has been a lot of UK Government support for what is a hugely important facility – and I think this is one also that will be watched in other parts of the world.
“It is the first time we’ve had a project of this type in this country where we are seeing an energy plant that will support a distillery that is green, it is using local woodlands.
“There is a lot to learn from this project as well as welcoming it going ahead from the Highland perspective too.”
Around 100 jobs will be created during the construction phase while the finished plant is expected to provide 25 new jobs in the area.
Local estates will also benefit from the project including the Drummuir Estate for whom Tarquil Gordon-Duff said: “We have 2000acres of commercial forestry on the estate made of up commercial soft wood and citrus spruce.
“It will be the low-grade stuff that we supply, the bulk that does not go to the building and construction industries – it would otherwise be palate wood and waste so this is a good way of using it.”
The new plant has not been without controversy, however, with Moray councillors narrowly voting to approve planning permission by seven votes to six despite receiving 131 objections.