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Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters: Volume 1: Environmental Report

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Non-Technical Summary

Introduction

This document is the Non-Technical Summary of an Environmental Report for a Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) carried out on the Scottish Government's draft Plan to develop wind energy in Scottish Territorial Waters ( STW). The Draft Plan (referred to as the Plan in this report) considers the potential for offshore wind energy development within 12 nautical miles of the coast (see Figure 1) and proposes options for the short, medium and long term.

Climate change and our response to managing its consequences is a major challenge facing the environment and society today, from the local to the global level. Offshore wind energy development is expected to play a major role in Scotland's contribution to the permanent reduction of the impacts of climate change by helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Plan

The Plan covers the sea around the Scottish coast out to the 12 nautical mile limit as shown on Figure 1. The Plan has been developed to meet Scottish Ministers' commitment to realising the environmental benefits associated with renewable energy and providing Scotland with a better mix of sources of power by reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

The overall objectives of the Plan are to:

  • Define a national strategy for the development of offshore wind energy in the sea over the short, medium and long term;
  • Set out a regional framework for offshore wind energy development, based on an assessment of environmental and technical capacity; and
  • Identify where options could be prioritised for development, and other areas where development may require further assessment and planning before progressing, as a result of their environmental and technical sensitivities.

The Plan sets out the following short term, medium term and long term options for offshore wind energy development:

  • The short term plan (2010-2020) (see Figure 1) proposes the development of the ten sites for which The Crown Estate has granted exclusivity agreements to developers. The SEA assesses the potential high level effects of developing each and all of these sites. The assessment concluded that all 10 sites can be progressed in the short term, subject to appropriate mitigation.
  • The medium term plan (2020-2030) (see Figure 2) proposes a further 25 options for development in the medium term. In the planning process, 30 options were initially identified through a mapping exercise that identified options with the fewest possible constraints to development (both technical and environmental). Within the Plan, these 30 options were grouped into six geographic regions - north, northeast, east, southwest, west and northwest and evaluated. The SEA assessed the potential high level environmental effects of developing any or all of these areas. This contributed to the decision to exclude five of the 30 options from the medium term plan on the basis of their potential technical or environmental constraints.
  • The remainder of the STW may be suitable for development in the longer term (2030+). With changes to technology and knowledge, areas beyond those identified under the short or medium term options may become more feasible in the future. Given this uncertainty, the SEA has not fully assessed the potential effects of the long term Plan at this stage.

The Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) process

The Environmental Report and this Non-Technical Summary have been prepared to meet the requirements of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005, which makes law European Union Directive 2001/42/ ECon the Assessment of the Effects of Certain Plans and Programmes on the Environment .

The SEA process has formed an integral part of the preparation of the Plan, to ensure that environmental considerations are incorporated within the decision-making process and that ultimately offshore wind energy development is sustainable.

Map

Map

The SEA considered the following topics:

  • the climate (climatic factors);
  • surface and groundwater;
  • geology, sedimentology and coastal processes;
  • biodiversity;
  • landscape, seascape and visual amenity;
  • population and human health;
  • cultural heritage; and
  • material assets 1 - navigation and other renewable energy generation.

The Environmental Report identifies, evaluates and describes the likely significant effects, both positive and negative, of implementing the Plan on the environment. In keeping with best practice the Precautionary Principle has been used throughout the assessment. Where there is uncertainty relating to potential effects, or a lack of information on which to make accurate predictions, then the 'worst case' has been assumed.

The term 'significant effect' is used throughout the SEA. It refers to an 'effect' that may occur that the regulatory authorities need to be aware of and consider in any proposal for development. Significant effects have been categorised as those effects that are minor, moderate or major positive or negative in nature, based on the sensitivity and/or value of the environmental receptor together with the scale and/or likely change that will be brought about through the identified impact. A significant effect may not necessarily prevent development, but does indicate where further action will be needed to avoid, minimise or offset environmental problems. As with any high level SEA of a strategic plan, at this stage some effects remain uncertain and require further consideration as the Plan is taken forward.

The Environmental Report describes the process of the assessment and recommends actions to help avoid or reduce significant effects on the environment. It also sets out proposals for monitoring.

Relationship between the Plan and its SEA

The development of the Plan and its SEA have been carried out in parallel. Preferred options for the Plan were developed using a range of techniques including mapping of environmental baseline information and technical constraints to identify potential areas for offshore wind farms. The SEA developed a set of objectives relating to the different environmental resources that were being considered, and the options were tested against each of them. This was considered alongside a review of broader technical issues which was undertaken within the planning process.

Figure 3 shows the process for developing and implementing the Plan and undertaking the associated environmental assessments.

SEA requires the early and effective engagement of the public in the plan-making and environmental assessment process. Throughout the development of the Plan and SEA, extensive consultation has been carried out. This has included a series of meetings and pre-consultation workshops with the following organisations:

  • Scottish Natural Heritage;
  • Historic Scotland;
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency;
  • Marine Scotland Steering Group;
  • representatives of wind energy industry;
  • representatives of fishing industry;
  • representatives of shipping industry; and
  • Non Government Organisations, including RSPB.

The consultation undertaken to date has ensured that the interests of the various groups have been taken into account in the SEA and development of the Plan. Amongst a range of issues, the consultation identified the need for additional studies and information on navigation and commercial fishing to be taken into account within the Plan itself.

The Plan is currently a draft document and there will now be a 12 week public consultation period. Upon receipt of consultation responses, the views of consultees will be considered, and the Plan will be finalised and adopted by Scottish Ministers. The Plan will then be used to guide the development of offshore wind energy around the coast of Scotland.

Where individual sites are progressed, developers will still need to carry out project specific Environmental Impact Assessments ( EIAs) of any proposed wind energy developments as part of the detailed consenting process. This stage will be able to draw on the information gathered to inform the Plan and its SEA.

The Environmental Report will be reviewed approximately every two years. It is very unlikely that all of the options identified in the Plan will be successfully developed within this period. This review cycle will be used to identify where development is progressing, reflect on any changes to legislation or policy, and take into account any emerging environmental issues including the findings of monitoring. The need to update the Plan will be considered at each review.

SEA Objectives

The following strategic environmental objectives have been identified, in consultation with key stakeholders, and were used to assess the short and medium term options:

  • to incorporate measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change;
  • to protect surface and aquifer (groundwater) water quality within STW;
  • to protect the geology, seabed sediments and sedimentary processes within STW;
  • to protect and if appropriate enhance biodiversity, fauna and flora (i.e. wildlife and commercial fishing species);
  • to protect and conserve landscape and seascape character/visual amenity within STW;
  • to avoid negative effects on human health and population and seek opportunities for enhancement;
  • to protect and, where appropriate, enhance the historic environment and cultural heritage in STW; and
  • to avoid significant conflicts with navigation, shipping and other renewable energy developments in STW2.

Figure 3 Relationship between the Plan and SEA

Figure 3 Relationship between the Plan and SEA

Sources of Potential Environmental Impacts

Offshore wind developments can create a wide range of environmental effects throughout the project life-cycle. Early in the SEA process, the potential effects of developing wind farms within STW were identified.

The source of environmental effects, the way in which those could affect the environment, and the environmental feature they might affect are described within the Environmental Report. The SEA considered how long effects might last, their likely scale and whether action is required to avoid or reduce them (mitigation). The SEA identified benefits as well as potential problems arising from the development (positive and negative effects).

The environmental effects of all of the short and medium term options were considered during the detailed assessment (see Table 1 for site specific impacts).

Consideration was given to whether environmental effects were strategic or more localised, as the latter can be more accurately defined, assessed and managed at the project level. Key potential effects identified at this stage included those relating to climate change, water, geology, sediments and coastal processes, biodiversity, landscape, population and human health, and cultural heritage. The SEA explored whether these effects arise before and during construction and/or when the wind farm was operating or ultimately being decommissioned.

Due to the likely scale of offshore wind developments, multiple work phases may take place within one wind farm. Similarly, the effects of one wind farm may combine with the effects of other wind farms in the wider area. The SEA therefore considers the cumulative effect of developments.

Environmental Baseline

Scotland's coastline and seas have significant wildlife, cultural, archaeological and landscape value. They also support a wide range of activities including commercial fishing, shipping and recreation. The sensitivity and value of these features and activities have been considered during the development of the Plan and its SEA.

The most relevant current environmental challenges that have been considered in the SEA are as follows:

  • Climatic Factors: Climate change predictions show that patterns of rainfall, temperatures, wind speeds and sea levels in Scotland could vary significantly in the future. In response, action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and this forms the underlying rationale for offshore wind development. Offshore wind farms are part of Scotland's policy (e.g. Renewables Action Plan 2009 and Scotland's 10 Energy Pledges 2009) and strategy towards increased generation of renewable energy and reduction in emissions to minimise climate change contributions. The Scottish Government is committed to generating 20% of all energy requirements and 50% of Scotland's electricity from renewables by 2020. It has an interim target of 31% electricity by 2011. The Scottish Government's Climate Change Act sets a target of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 with a world- leading interim target of 42% by 2020.
  • Water Resources: At present the quality of Scotland's coastal waterbodies is good. Their quality needs to be sustained to meet the requirements of the Water Framework Directive and ensure activities such as aquaculture are unaffected.
  • Geology, Sedimentology and Coastal Processes: Scotland's coastline is of geological interest and the seabed has an important role to play in sustaining biodiversity. The Plan also has the potential to affect the structure and environmental quality of the seabed.
  • Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna: Scotland's seas are rich in biodiversity, and many areas of the coast are internationally and nationally recognised and protected. Many important marine and coastal birds, plants and animals are supported by this network of protected sites. Marine mammals including whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals, fish such as salmon, shad and lamprey, habitats and underwater ecology could potentially be affected by offshore wind development. Many birds rely on the coast and seas as places to find food, breed and roost. Whilst the SEA has explored the potential for offshore wind to adversely affect biodiversity, it has also identified where benefits could arise, for example by changing patterns of fishing or creating artificial reefs where fish can gather.
  • Landscape, Seascape and Visual Amenity: Like biodiversity, many coastal areas are internationally and nationally recognised and protected for their landscape and scenic value. Seascapes in the north and west of Scotland are particularly sensitive to the potential impacts of developments and coastal scenery is a key draw for visitors. Any degradation in landscape and seascape quality may therefore impact upon the tourist industry and on recreational users.
  • Population and Human Health: Coasts and the seas are important to communities, many different recreational users, visitors and people who work there. Access to the coast is currently varied, but high quality vistas, views to sea and enjoyment and appreciation of natural heritage all form an important part of Scotland's national tourism product. There are numerous cruising routes and other areas for recreation located throughout STW.
  • Cultural Heritage: There are many known and unknown archaeological sites around the coasts and under the sea. Many important listed buildings are located along the coast. St Kilda and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Sites are of international importance. The SEA has assessed potential for damage to these sites, and effects arising from changes to their wider setting.
  • Material Assets: The sea is extensively used by shipping and other renewable industries are starting to develop (such as tidal energy).

There is a great deal of environmental information about the Scottish coastline and the sea, which has been collected and collated for this assessment. However, further information is also required to inform future decision making at the regional and project level, such as the movement of sediments on the seabed and the distribution, movement and behaviour of species such as whales, birds and fish.

Assessment of Environmental Effects

Overview

For each short term and medium term option identified in the Plan, an assessment of the effect on the environment was carried out. Each option was assessed against the identified SEA objectives, taking into account the current environmental features and challenges. The significant environmental effects of the Plan are summarised in Table 1 and are explained in the following sections. It is important to emphasise the early stage of this assessment. A range of mitigation measures has been identified that may be applied, most likely at the regional or project. Application of this mitigation may also require more detailed project and site specific information that will only become available later in the development programme. Consequently the potential impacts identified in Table 1 are those which might arise prior to the application of the detailed regional or project level mitigation.

Table 1: Significant Environmental Effects (individual and cumulative) of the Plan, prior to mitigation.

SEA Topics

Potentially Significant Environmental Effects Prior to Mitigation

Short Term Plan

Medium Term Plan

Climatic Factors

Major beneficial impacts: the long term operation of offshore wind farms will reduce greenhouse emissions and Scotland's carbon footprint, and contribute to future renewable energy targets.

Argyll Array: this option would provide the greatest area for wind generation and would be sited in the west of Scotland, where wind speeds are high.

Water Resources

Uncertain impacts on water quality. Offshore wind construction and decommissioning at different sites within STW have the potential to increase disturbance of the seabed, making the water cloudy and potentially affecting water quality. These changes, which remain uncertain at this stage, could affect wildlife dependent on existing water conditions, and the ability of fish species to spawn, breathe and feed. Shellfish waters could also be affected, although the significance of these effects cannot be fully defined at this stage. The presence of a large number of structures has the potential to remove energy from the water column which in turn could affect wave climate, hydrology and water quality in its wake. Construction and decommissioning effects are temporary and often reversible. Effects due to the presence of the turbines will last while they are in place and some will be reversible.

Geology, Sediments and Coastal Processes

Uncertain impacts on geology, sediments and coastal processes at this stage. The assessment has, however, identified potential for offshore wind developments to collectively result in disturbance to the seabed (e.g. from erosion in localised areas), wave climate and hydrology which may affect sediment transport dynamics and water quality, with further impacts on wildlife and fisheries, and on coastal geological SSSIs (nationally designated sites). Construction and decommissioning effects are temporary and often reversible. Effects due to the presence of the turbines will last while they are in place and some will be reversible

Inch Cape, Bell Rock, Neart na Gaoithe and Forth Array: these options may have the highest potential to result in impacts on the seabed causing erosion or accretion of designated geological sites. These effects could combine with those from other activities on the Firth of Forth.

No clear conclusions can be drawn regarding impacts on medium term options at this stage.

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna (generally referred to as 'wildlife' in this Non Technical Summary

Adverse impacts: there may be impacts on underwater habitats and associated species in the footprint of the wind farm development although the significance of this remains difficult to define at this stage. Impacts may result from the displacement or disturbance of birds, mammals, fish, benthic communities and flora through a combination of factors including noise (and multiple noise sources), vibration, visual and light intensity changes, water quality changes, habitat disturbance or the presence of structures and vessels. Additional cumulative impacts may occur, particularly affecting mammals and migratory fish, from an increased number of barriers affecting fish movement, multiple noise sources audible to marine mammals and fish during construction and increased vessel disturbance. Many of the construction and decommissioning effects may be temporary and reversible.

Beneficial impacts: creation of artificial habitat for marine organisms resulting from the presence of new structures. These benefits would last the life of the project or longer, depending on the decommissioning scheme.

Uncertain impacts - potential impacts on nature conservation sites through changes in coastal processes and sediment circulation could arise but remain largely uncertain at this stage. There are other uncertain impacts on biodiversity due to unknown sensitivity and behaviour of species to particular noise and vibration generating activities etc and unknown species distribution. Wind farms may be sited in areas already disturbed for example as a result of trawling by fishermen, but the extent of this is unknown.

Adverse impacts:

Beatrice, Inch Cape, Bell Rock, Neart na Gaoithe and Forth Array: these sites have the potential to affect a population of bottlenose dolphins resident in the Moray Firth, internationally important resident and migratory birds.

Solway Firth and Wigtown Bay: the SEA identified the possibility of impacts on wintering wildfowl and waders in the adjacent international conservation sites and Important Bird Areas in the Solway Firth.

All options (except Solway Firth, Wigtown Bay and Kintyre): have the potential for direct impacts on spawning grounds for mackerel, plaice or sandeels, and could directly affect nursery areas for plaice, whiting, herring, cod or saithe. These effects will therefore require further assessment and potential action at the regional and project level.

Adverse impacts:

All options: impacts on cetaceans (e.g. whales and dolphins), seals, migratory birds, otters in some areas and fish nursery and/or spawning areas.

NE1, NE2, NE3, E1: there is potential for development in these areas to have impacts on a resident population of bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth that range southwards to the Firths of Forth and Tay

Landscape and Visual Amenity

Neutral to major changes landscape/seascape character and visual amenity. There is potential for cumulative effects on seascape character, as a result of options lying within high sensitivity seascapes or within 8km of internationally and nationally designated landscapes, and on visual amenity for receptors along the coastline. The potential landscape/seascape and visual impacts are characterised here as changes rather than positive or negative effects as this can be subjective and depend on the preferences and perceptions of the viewer. Subject to decommissioning, these effects will be reversible.

Further consideration of the combined presence of existing and proposed wind farms in the southern part of Scotland will be needed using recognised methodologies. The combined effects of other types of developments in conjunction with wind generation proposals need to be considered at a detailed scale on a site by site basis.

Indirect impacts on recreation and tourism may also be experienced as a result of a significant change in visual amenity and landscape or seascape character.

Significant changes: Islay, Kintyre, Argyll Array, Solway Firth and Wigtown Bay: these sites could have major impacts on seascape/landscape character due to the presence of medium-high sensitivity seascapes. These options (except Islay) could also have major potential visual impacts due to their proximity to land and nationally designated landscapes.

Solway Firth and Wigtown Bay: potential cumulative landscape and visual impacts due to their proximity to the Robin Rigg wind farm. The significance of these effects will be dependent on how far apart developments are spaced, the number of wind farms progressed and their similarity in design. Both options lie within a high sensitivity seascape, within 8km of a nationally designated landscape, within 8km of visual receptors on the coastline and the Robin Rigg offshore wind farm borders the north eastern section of the Solway Firth. Both short term options and the Robin Rigg site may together be visible from a single point on the coastline.

Significant changes:NW5 and NW6: these options could have major impacts on seascape/landscape and visual amenity from construction of offshore wind turbines, due to the presence of high sensitivity seascapes, the proximity to land and the proximity to National Scenic Areas.

All options (except E1) have the potential to affect medium or high sensitivity seascapes.

All options (except SW2) have the potential to have minor impacts on nationally designated landscapes, as they lie within 24 and 35km of the sites.

Population and Human Health

Beneficial impacts: all options will help to secure a renewable energy supply for the projected increase in the Scottish population. Subject to decommissioning, these benefits will be reversible.

Adverse impacts: all options have the potential to affect recreational users through combined pressures of those using the sea. Potential effects identified include disturbance to, or loss of coastal and marine recreational areas (including light or moderately used RYA cruising/sailing routes), wave climate and activities with associated effects on the enjoyment and potentially the safety of marine users. Subject to decommissioning, these effects will be reversible.

Adverse impacts: All options have the potential for impacts on recreational users, predominantly in and around the Firths, where recreational activity is greatest. As a result, mitigation will be required at the project level and further liaison with recreation groups will be undertaken.

Wigtown Bay and Solway Firth: there is potential for cumulative recreational pressures during offshore wind construction from these options together with the Robin Rigg site, as the Solway Coast is considered of great importance for informal recreation including sea angling, and the visual amenity/seascape may be affected. Vessel traffic may temporarily cause disturbance to or displacement of recreational users.

Adverse impacts: All options (except W1, W2 and W3) have the potential for impacts on moderate or light use RYA cruising routes and/or sailing areas. This issue will therefore require further consideration and appropriate mitigation as the medium term plan progresses.

Cultural Heritage

Adverse impacts: Bell Rock and Argyll Array could adversely affect the setting of listed lighthouses and may have additional combined pressures on their settings from the Round 3 offshore wind farms.

Other unknown, submerged or non-designated archaeological assets features or palaeo-landscapes may be present within the footprint of the short term options. Effects are likely to be permanent.

Adverse impacts: N7: potential for direct impacts on two designated wrecks and their exclusion zones within the footprint during construction.

NW1: potential for major adverse impacts on St Kilda World Heritage Site, which lies 7km from the site.

NW3 - potential for major adverse impact on St Kilda World Heritage Site, in terms of its inter-relationship with the Western Isles.

Other unknown, submerged or non-designated archaeological assets features or palaeo-landscapes may be present within the footprint of the medium term options. Effects are likely to be permanent.

Material Assets

Adverse impacts: Potential issues with navigation, although the Maritime and Coastguard Agency ( MCA) will manage any issue to ensure that there are no hazards to shipping. Commercial impacts on the fishing and shipping industries lie outwith the scope of the SEA but are considered under the Plan.

Mitigation

As the short and medium term options have the potential to generate significant environmental effects, actions are proposed to manage (by preventing, reducing or offsetting) the significant adverse effects. Implementation of these actions is required to ensure that the adverse environmental effects of the Plan are minimised where possible.

During the implementation of the Plan, the SEA process will continue through the following three stages to ensure that the predicted environmental effects of the Plan are managed:

  • implementation of proposed mitigation measures (identified at a high level within the Environmental Report and to be detailed at the subsequent project level);
  • monitoring and evaluation of the environmental performance (i.e. principally the predicted effects) of the Plan; and
  • revision of the Plan during its review cycle (in 2 years time) to address any adverse effects identified during the proposed monitoring and evaluation activities.

These processes will take place over a number of years and involve periodical updates of the SEA and the Plan to ensure that significant adverse effects are mitigated in the most effective and efficient way. This will require the involvement of a range of key stakeholders to ensure that their views are taken into account.

Specific measures to mitigate the adverse effects identified for each option and receptor have not been identified for this SEA, as these will be identified at the project level when the appropriate level of detailed information is available. Instead, the mitigation measures are identified within three over-arching categories:

  • A need for further assessment work where the information available to predict the likely effects of an option is uncertain;
  • Recommendations to avoid impacts on sensitive environmental receptors (e.g. World Heritage Sites, shipping routes) by either excluding options, or positioning development within the identified option boundaries;
  • A need to reduce the identified impacts through the design development process and the proposed construction (including installation and decommissioning) and operational methods. More specific measures for each environmental receptor will be identified at the project level.

The following strategic mitigation measures have been identified to ensure that the adverse effects of the Plan are avoided or minimised. These are as follows:

  • there may be a requirement to remove further options from the plan on the basis of the findings of a strategic level Habitats Regulations Appraisal ( HRA). This would assess the likely significant effects of the Draft Plan on internationally protected sites ( SPAs, SACs and Ramsar Sites). It may be necessary to change the Draft Plan where adverse effects on European nature conservation sites are identified in this process, and other forms of mitigation are considered insufficient to avoid such effects arising;
  • continue communications (consultation and participation) with the consultation authorities ( SEPA, SNH and Historic Scotland), regulators, key organisations (e.g. Scottish Fishermen's Federation), developers (including those that have been awarded exclusivity leases for areas inside STW), Offshore Wind Industry Group and the public to seek appropriate site-specific mitigation. Developers must continue to be engaged in the process together with the shipping and commercial fishing industries to develop appropriate mitigation;
  • consider the potential requirement to identify and provide habitat to help offset non-designated/nationally designated habitat losses resulting from offshore wind farm development;
  • consider the implementation and scheduling of components of offshore wind projects within STW (in combination with other planned offshore developments) to minimise strategic adverse impacts on species (e.g. migratory fish, marine mammals etc), habitats and landscape); including consideration of the cumulative and in-combination effects with other identified schemes, projects or activities;
  • landscapes/seascapes. This will largely apply to wind farm options located in the north, west and south-west of Scotland; and
  • undertake further work recommended at the strategic level.

Conclusions

Based on the findings from the SEA process and other technical considerations, it is anticipated that all ten short term options could be progressed between 2010 and 2020, as part of the Plan, if appropriate mitigation is implemented to avoid, minimise and offset significant environmental impacts, as identified above.

Of the 30 medium term options considered, the Plan currently proposes that 25 medium term options should be considered further for implementation between 2020 and 2030. Two medium term options within the North West area are considered to have unacceptable impacts on the outstanding universal value of St Kilda World Heritage Site. Option NW1 is within 7km of St. Kilda World Heritage Site and given the sensitivity of the seascape and environment in this area, the SEA has recommended that the option is removed from the medium term plan at this stage. Although it is further away from St. Kilda, Option NW3 has also been excluded from the medium term plan as a result of its potential impact on the relationship between St. Kilda and the Western Isles. Three options have been excluded from the medium term Plan due to the presence of mine fields and a munitions site.

The Plan is also expected to result in significant benefits:

  • All options would have a major and permanent beneficial impact on climate, as it would help to reduce Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to future renewable energy targets set by the EU. Production of 6 GW of electricity from offshore wind when combined with the existing 4 GW from existing renewable sources would exceed the 8 GW 2020 target for electricity generation.
  • All options would provide some benefits to wildlife through the addition of new structures on to the seabed, which are likely to provide a habitat for various marine species including fish.

Following application of the mitigation measures to the potential effects of the Plan, some significant residual impacts may persist, which will require further mitigation

  • The implementation of the short term and medium term options in the south, north and west of Scotland have the potential for the greatest change on seascape/landscape and visual amenity due to the presence of high sensitivity seascapes, the presence of nationally designated landscapes and the close proximity of some options to the coastline.
  • All options could affect areas which are currently popular for recreation including sailing. The wave climate could also be locally affected, with associated effects on board water-sports and sea/shore angling.

There are many uncertain impacts in relation to the Plan, including on the water environment and coastal/seabed sediments, which are difficult to fully define at this stage. Further research is therefore required in this area to ensure that any new development meets the requirements of the Water Framework Directive, and does not interfere with natural coastal processes.

In addition, some impacts on wildlife remain uncertain, notably on marine mammals, marine and coastal birds, fish and underwater ecology. Injury, disturbance or displacement of these species may result from increases in noise and vibration from the turbines, loss of feeding areas in the footprint of the works, barriers to movement and electromagnetic fields created by the wind farms. All options have the potential to affect fish spawning and/or nursery areas although the scale of these effects needs to be considered in relation to the relatively much larger area of the spawning and nursery grounds.

Implementation and Monitoring of Plan

The SEA has identified the need for further work at the strategic level to support the ongoing development of the Plan and its future iterations, to fill data gaps and uncertainties, and to assist with mitigating its potential environmental effects. As detailed more fully in the Environmental Report, this includes work on water quality, biodiversity, development methods, regional level effects on landscapes, recreation activities and effects, and interactions between offshore wind and commercial fishing and shipping. Further research is also needed to identify ways in which the benefits of offshore wind developments for the natural environment can be maximised.

Marine Scotland will play a key role in co-ordinating and facilitating further studies, and ensure that implementation of the plan is undertaken with future marine planning and the needs of other users of the sea in mind. Marine Scotland will also collate and manage information, including further research and examples of best practice, which emerge as the Plan is implemented.

A monitoring framework has been proposed for the Plan within the Environmental Report to ensure that offshore wind development is carried out in a sustainable manner. This includes (amongst other activities) commitments to monitoring the contribution of offshore wind development to greenhouse gas reduction and periodically reviewing the compliance of the Plan with the SEA objectives. The monitoring framework explains how relevant organisations can help to contribute to a national level understanding and monitoring strategy.

Next Steps

As noted previously strategic assessment of the impact of the Plan on areas of high nature conservation importance (a Habitats Regulations Appraisal), will be carried out.

The Plan and Environmental Report will undergo 12 weeks statutory consultation. The relevant documents are available on the Scottish Government's website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Consultations/Current and in hard copy from:

Offshore Wind Consultation,
Marine Scotland,
Area 1-A (South)
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ


Tel: 0131 244 1617

Responses to the consultation should be sent to: offshorewindconsultation@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Submissions should be made by 16 August 2010. Consultees may wish to focus their responses on the following questions:

1. Does the mapping of exclusion zones, environmental issues, and technical issues provide a reasonable basis for modelling the options?

2. Do you have any further technical or environmental information you think we should take into account as we refine the Draft Plan?

3. Do you consider that the Draft Plan presents a set of practical options?

4. Should any options be removed from the Draft Plan?

5. Are there other options we should consider in the medium or long term?

6. How can the Draft Plan be improved? What should be taken forward differently and why?

7. Do you have views on the scale and pace of development that could be sustainably accommodated in STW, taking into account the findings from the SEA and the technical assessment?

8. Have we got the balance right in the Draft Plan, between tackling climate change, maximising opportunities for economic development and dealing with environmental and commercial impacts?

9. The Plan, once implemented, will be reviewed to take account of actual development and increasing knowledge of development factors. How often should this be done and why?

10. The SEA has identified that there could be significant adverse effects, from the Draft Plan as a whole, on Scotland's landscapes and seascapes. Measures for the mitigation of these effects have been identified in the SEA environmental report.

Do you have a view on these findings? Do you think that the proposed mitigation measures will be effective? Do you have any additional suggestions?

11. Do you have any other views on the findings of the SEA? do you think that all the environmental effects (positive and negative) have been identified? Are there other issues that we should be taking into account in the preparation of the Draft Plan?

12. The Draft Plan has identified environmental and technical issues in the north and north west regions of Scotland, in particular. It may therefore be reasonable to give further consideration to these regions.

Do you think that development in these or other regions, or individual options within them, should be given lower priority or perhaps deferred to the longer term?

Broader responses are also welcome. At the end of the consultation period, the Draft Plan will be reviewed by Scottish Government, taking account of submissions received, revised as appropriate, prior to formal adoption by Scottish Ministers. Following this, a post-adoption SEA statement will be prepared to document the process and demonstrate how issues raised during consultation have been addressed by the final Plan.

Once the final Plan has been published, the monitoring framework set out within the Environmental Report will be used to assess the impacts of the implementation of the Plan. It is proposed that the Plan is reviewed after two years. As appropriate, the SEA will be revisited and updated as an integral part of this process.