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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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7 Alternative Options

7.1 Introduction

This section describes the options for offshore wind farms and how they were identified. Options were identified in the short term (to approximately 2020), the medium term (approximately 2020 to 2030), and the longer term (approximately 2030+). The detail of the options selection process is provided in the draft Plan.

7.2 Evolution of the Baseline in the Absence of the Plan

The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires that the evolution of the study area in the absence of a plan is considered (see Section 5.10). The 'Do Nothing' option provides a baseline against which the Plan options can be assessed. In this case, 'Do Nothing' would be to not develop any offshore wind energy within STW. Plans to develop wave and tidal energy could still proceed.

A 'Do Nothing' option is not considered a realistic alternative as a commitment has been made by the Scottish Government to develop the Plan. However, it provides a benchmark against which the draft Plan can be assessed, and is therefore considered in this assessment as the evolution of the baseline in the absence of the Plan.

7.3 Selection of Short Term Options

Ten options have been identified by developers for wind farms within STW. The Crown Estate has entered into exclusivity agreements for these options. There are two developments in the Solway Firth; namely Solway Firth and Wigtown Bay. There are three developments off the west coast of Scotland; Argyll Array, Islay and Kintyre and there are four options off the east coast of Scotland in the Forth and Tay region; these are Bell Rock, Forth Array, Inch Cape and Neart na Gaoithe. The final site called Beatrice is off the east coast of Caithness. The ten options are shown in Figure 7-1 and Table 7-1. Consideration of the short term option is also the 'Do Proposed' option.

Table 7-1: Short Term Options and STW Exclusivity Agreement

Name of Option

Company with exclusivity agreement

Size ( MW)

Approximate area sq. km

Solway Firth

E. ON Climate & Renewables UK Developments

300

61

Wigtown Bay

Dong Wind ( UK) Ltd

280

51

Kintyre

Airtricity Holdings ( UK) Ltd

378

69

Islay

Airtricity Holdings ( UK) Ltd

680

94

Argyll Array

Scottish Power Renewables

1,500

361

Beatrice

Airtricity Holdings UK Ltd
SeaEnergy Renewables Ltd

920

121

Inch Cape

NPower Renewables Ltd
SeaEnergy Renewables Ltd

905

150

Bell Rock

Airtricity Holdings UK Ltd
Fluor Ltd

700

93

Neart na Gaoithe

Mainstream Renewable Power Ltd

360

105

Forth Array

Fred Olsen Renewables Ltd

415

128

Figure 7-1: Short term options

Figure 7-1: Short term options

7.4 Selection of Medium Term Options

To assess the potential for medium to long term development of offshore wind in STW, the remaining area (i.e. the entire STW excluding the short term options) was considered, as described in the Plan. This is called the 'Do Maximum' option. The first stage involved mapping Exclusion zones and modelling Environmental Sensitivities and Potential Technical Constraints utilising The Crown Estate Marine Resource System ( MaRS). 60 The method used is described in detail in the Plan. In summary, the following steps have been followed to identify the medium term options:

  • exclusion areas were mapped;
  • environmental sensitivities were modelled and numerically categorised;
  • potential technical constraints were modelled and numerically categorised;
  • the lowest categories of environmental sensitivities were over-laid on the technical constraints;
  • additional (non- MaRS) data on shipping and fishing activity was used to test the overlap of the fewest environmental sensitivities and technical constraints for obvious challenges to development to identify sensible options; and
  • the medium term options Plan was produced.

Table 7-2 lists the factors taken into account in the assessment, including exclusions, potential environmental and technical constraints. More detailed information on the use of this data is given in the Plan.

Table 7-2: Factors taken into account in the development of the Medium Term Plan

Exclusions

Potential environmental sensitivities

Potential Technical Issues

MoD Munitions Dumps

Sub-sea pipelines and infrastructure

Surface Infrastructure

Safety Zones

Offshore Wells

Round 1 and 3 Wind farms

Electricity and Gas Interconnectors

Aquaculture Pending and Current Leases

Petroleum Industry's Active Pipelines

Cable on the UK's continental shelf

Wind Farm Cables

Wave Lease for Portnahaven

European Marine Energy Centre ( EMEC) Wave and Tidal Power Leases

Aggregate Dredging Option

MoD Danger Areas

International Maritime Organisation ( IMO) Routes

World Heritage Sites

Wrecks

Candidate Special Areas of Conservation ( cSAC) and SACs

Proposed Special Protection Areas ( pSPA) and SPAs

National Scenic Areas ( NSA)

Seascapes

Bird Densities

Cetacean Density

Seabird Colony Reserves

Basking Shark Locations

Seal Observation Locations (various species)

RSBP land

Important Bird Areas

Local Nature Reserves ( LNRs)

National Nature Reserves ( NNR)

Ramsar Sites

Sites of Special Scientific Interest ( SSSI)

Spawning and nursery grounds

Shipping Density

Helicopter Platform

Helicopter Routes - North Sea

Radar Interference Zones

UK Civil Licensed Aerodrome Buffer (24 km)

MoD Airfields (24 km Buffer)

MoD Practice and Exercise Areas ( PEXA)

Anchorage Areas

Navigation Aids

Cables Not In Use

Disused Disposal Sites

Royal Yachting Association Cruising Routes 2008

Royal Yachting Association Racing Areas 2008

Royal Yachting Association Sailing Areas 2008

Commercial Fishing Value

7.5 The Medium Term Options

The 30 medium term options are shown in outline on Figure 7.2 and in more detail on Figures 7.3a-f - Sensitivities, Issues and Options (at end of report) and are shown in Table 7-3.

Table 7-3: Medium term options

Area

Medium Term Option

Approximate area (sq. km)

East

E1

2022

North

N1

1671

N2

449

N3

1535

N4

776

N5

1079

N6

222

N7

1729

N8

300

North-East

NE1

387

NE2

170

NE3

131

North-West

NW1

206

NW2

1278

NW3

277

NW4

156

NW5

324

NW6

914

NW7

2554

NW8

2531

South-West

SW1

7

SW2

93

SW3

354

SW4

24

SW5

55

SW6

16

West

W1

1491

W2

1039

W3

57

W4

253

Figure 7-2: Medium term options

Figure 7-2: Medium term options

Some of the short term options are also within medium term option areas. Area E1 includes Inch Cape and Neart na Gaoithe. Of the medium term options, some were removed from the Plan following the technical and environmental assessment for the following reasons:

  • N2 and N3 - presence of historic minefields and possibly visible from a WHS;
  • SW2 - presence of munitions site;
  • NW1 - high seascape value (near St Kilda WHS);
  • NW3 - high seascape value (between St Kilda and Western Isles)

7.6 Long Term Option

The long term option is all the remaining area of STW not included within the Exclusion Area, the short term or medium term options. As described in Chapter 2, the long term option has not been taken forward for further SEA assessment. The long term option forms part of the 'Do Maximum' option.