Denmarks state-owned energy company, Dong, has joined forces with Peel Energy at Clydeport for a £2 billion 1600MW plant which would be able to power the average needs of two million homes.
The first of two 800MW plants could be operating by 2014, but if all planning and environmental hurdles were overcome a more realistic timetable for a switch-on would be 2018.
The facility would be located next to British Energys nuclear site and Hunterston deep water port.
As the coal station would be dependent mainly on imported coal, which has lower emissions than coal from Scottish fields it is considered ideal by the Danish company.
It would also be suited for generating power from burning biomass, by-products from forestry and farming.
The use of coal will be controversial, as environmental campaigners push to reduce Britains heavy dependency on polluting fossil fuels for its electricity. However Dong have pledged to build the worlds first carbon capture unit to substantially cut pollution.
SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson welcomed the news and former Labour MP Brian Wilson, who is a consultant on the Hunterston project, said the plans for clean coal were distinct from old coal technologies.
It is claimed that Dong already has experience of reducing emissions by a quarter in new plants when compared with old coal-burning stations.
The project which could create 1,500 jobs over ten years of construction would prepare Hunterston for carbon capture - pumping emissions for storage in wells under the sea. If this becomes viable, it is claimed emissions could be cut by 90%.