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Marine Scotland sets out potential offshore wind development sites

Out-Law News | 29 Jun 2018 | 10:06 am | 2 min. read

Developers seeking to lease parts of the Scottish seabed for future offshore wind projects have been urged to feed into a consultation exercise on potential sites.

The scoping consultation, published by Marine Scotland, identifies 24 'areas of search' in which future development options could be located. Marine Scotland, as the planning authority for Scotland's seas, is seeking views on these areas; alongside the scoping documents associated with the strategic environmental assessment, socio-economic assessment and Habitats Regulation appraisal parts of the planning process.

The final areas of search will ultimately be incorporated into the Scottish government's draft plan for offshore wind energy, which it intends to consult on in 2019.

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

Crown Estate Scotland is currently consulting on a provisional design for a leasing package, which has been developed following early consultation with developers and other stakeholders. The paper identifies the seabed being offered for lease as the areas which Marine Scotland identified in Marine Scotland's sectoral plan for offshore wind, once finalised.

The Marine Scotland consultation closes on 18 July 2018. Crown Estate Scotland's consultation closes on 31 August 2018.

The list of potential areas of search was drawn up by feeding data on 'opportunities', such as average wind speed or existing grid connections; and 'constraints', such as fishing activity, shipping traffic or environmental sensitivities, into spatial analysis software so that they could be combined and presented as one national map. Exclusion criteria, such as existing lease agreements, aquaculture and oil and gas industry zones, were also taken into account in coming up with the final list of sites.

The final proposed areas of search include waters to the north, west, east and north east of Scotland, all within 200 nautical miles of the mainland and extending as far north as Shetland. These sites, if approved following the consultation, will ultimately form the spatial footprint within which any future offshore wind development at commercial scale, over 100MW, should take place in Scotland.

"It is good to see front-loaded consultation on potential areas for future leasing rounds," said Alan Cook of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

"The Scottish Territorial Waters leasing round a few years ago was less successful than it might have been due to environmental concerns and other site constraints not being identified at an early enough stage, and it is to be hoped that the current scoping and consultation process will facilitate positive outcomes for future Scottish leasing rounds. This consultation is an opportunity for the industry and its stakeholders to contribute their own thinking into this early stage site identification process," he said.