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Crown Estate Scotland publishes plans for new offshore wind

Out-Law News | 23 May 2018 | 10:48 am | 2 min. read

Plans to lease areas of seabed around the coast of Scotland for new offshore wind projects have been published by Crown Estate Scotland.

Work needs to start now on a new leasing model to ensure that projects are ready to deploy from the late 2020s onwards, as it can take up to 10 years to develop and construct a new offshore wind project. There are currently two operational offshore wind projects in Scottish waters, with two under construction and others currently under development.

Crown Estate Scotland manages public land, property and property rights on behalf of the Scottish ministers, including rights to offshore renewable energy out to 200 nautical miles. Any money made from seabed leasing will be returned to the Scottish government for public spending, following the transfer of the Crown Estate's Scottish functions to its control on 1 April 2017.

Property law expert Alan Cook of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the Crown Estate was expected to publish similar proposals in respect of coastal waters around the rest of the UK.

"This consultation marks a step towards the next generation of offshore wind farms in Scottish waters," he said.

"Developers and stakeholders will be keen to engage with Crown Estate Scotland to apply the lessons learnt from past leasing rounds, under which a number of offshore wind farms are now in the operational, construction or pre-construction phases. This will also be an important project for Crown Estate Scotland following the recent transfer of the Crown Estate's Scottish functions to the control of the Scottish parliament," he said.

The Scottish government has set a target that 50% of Scotland's heat, transport and electricity consumption should come from renewable sources by 2030. Its energy strategy, published in December 2017, set out its commitment to work with Crown Estate Scotland and Marine Scotland to deliver new offshore wind projects.

The paper (36-page / 488KB PDF) sets out a provisional design for a leasing package, which has been developed by Crown Estate Scotland following early consultation with developers and other stakeholders. However, it was keen to stress that the model put forward in the paper should be used as "a starting point for discussion rather than a description of our intended final position".

The paper identifies the seabed being offered for lease as areas identified in the Sectoral Plan for Offshore Wind, which will be published shortly by Marine Scotland. Crown Estate Scotland does not intend to carry out any pre-consenting or other preliminary work in order to identify potential sites for development within these areas before offering them for leasing, in contrast to the approach taken by some other European countries.

Crown Estate Scotland goes on to set out provisional contract terms which would govern successful applicants' use of the seabed. It also includes details of how it proposes to select successful applicants and of the 'clearing' process it will use where there are competing applications for an interest in the same location.

The paper confirms Crown Estate Scotland's intention to run more than one leasing cycle, and to allow for projects in both conventional water depths and deeper offshore waters. It does not intend to stipulate any particular technology solution or configuration at the application stage, or in the final option agreement.

Crown Estate Scotland is planning a number of events around Scotland for developers and other stakeholders before the consultation period ends on 31 August 2018. It is anticipating that it will launch its final leasing process in late 2018 or early 2019.