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Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters: Non-Technical Summary

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Background

1) This Draft Plan sets out Scottish Ministers' proposals for the development of offshore wind energy in Scottish Territorial Waters in the short, medium and long term.

2) To help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and realise the multi-billion pound economic investment that could arise from Scotland's comparative advantage in natural resources, The Scottish Government has made a commitment to generating 20% of all energy, and 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This requires that the current capacity of nearly 4 Gigawatts ( GW) is doubled to 8 GW. Offshore wind energy in Scotland's seas has a key role to play in delivering a large share of renewable energy generation in Scotland.

3) As a result, the Scottish Government supports the sustainable development of offshore wind energy in its territorial waters.

Plan preparation process

4) In order to define where this might best be achieved, work has been undertaken to identify and assess relevant technical and environmental matters from a national perspective. This has included:

  • mapping of key technical and environment constraints to identify option areas where development might be most feasible;
  • an evaluation of these areas in relation to other users of the sea, most notably shipping and commercial fishing sectors; and
  • a strategic environmental assessment of their effects on natural and cultural heritage features.

5) This informed the identification of a total of 40 options for development in the short to medium term. These options were subjected to further environmental and technical assessment.

Short term proposals

6) In 2009, The Crown Estates identified 10 areas where it was prepared to grant commercial leases for offshore wind energy developments. These areas collectively have generation capacity of around 6.4 gigawatts ( GW). The resulting Draft Plan now encompasses these 10 areas, as they are considered to represent the most likely areas for development in the short term.

7) The environmental and technical assessment of these 10 sites for development concluded there are no known nationally significant environmental effects which cannot be avoided or reduced through appropriate project planning and development methods.

8) As a result, the Draft Plan proposes that these areas continue to be progressed as soon as possible, and also recommends that further work is undertaken to support the planning and consenting processes and ensure national impacts are fully understood and monitored. This includes additional research on marine mammals and some fish species, further consideration of specific development activities that will be undertaken, and surveys of seabird movements. The environmental assessment has shown that there are important challenges ahead that will require careful consideration and mitigation, including the collective impacts of development on our coastal landscapes, seascapes and biodiversity.

Medium term priorities

9) Development of the medium term plan for the period 2020-2030 included further assessment of 30 identified options for development. Of these, 5 areas were discounted as they had significant technical constraints, or were considered likely to have unacceptable significant effects on the St. Kilda World Heritage Site. The remaining 25 options have been taken forward to form a medium term plan for offshore wind development. These are shown in Figure 1.

10) These areas are distributed around Scotland's coasts and range in their size and characteristics. Whilst the Scottish Government is supportive of offshore wind development and wishes to take an inclusive approach to the Plan, it also recognises that some of these areas may be more or less acceptable to different interest groups. In particular, the Draft Plan notes that the collective effects of development in the North and North West of the country could be particularly significant. Scottish Ministers therefore specifically invites consultees to comment on whether or not it would be appropriate to defer development in these areas into the longer term.

11) All of the short and medium term options for development will be reviewed on the basis of the findings from the strategic assessment of likely significant effects on Natura 2000 sites and their qualifying features. Other environmental measures have been identified in the SEA which seek to minimise the individual and collective effects arising from development in all of the option areas. The Plan states that these should be taken forward at the regional or project level.

12) Clear commitments are made within the Draft Plan to progress further work with the shipping and fishing sectors in the short and medium term to ensure that development does not undermine these key sectors. Furthermore, further work to address key gaps in our knowledge about the marine environment and its interaction with offshore wind development will be undertaken.

Figure 1: Short and Medium Term Options included in the Draft Plan

Figure 1: Short and Medium Term Options included in the Draft Plan

Longer term perspective

13) In the long term, the Draft Plan supports further consideration of any of the short or medium term options which have not been implemented at that stage. Further consideration should also be given to development in the remainder of Scottish Territorial Waters. The Scottish Government is committed to reviewing the plan every 2 years, in recognition of the fast pace of change within the offshore wind sector and marine environment.

Next Steps

14) No final decisions on the suitability of any of these areas have yet been made, as the Draft Plan is now open for a period of public and stakeholder consultation. Consultees are now invited to share their views on the best options for offshore wind energy development, as well as areas where they wish to see greater restrictions.

15) As explained in the Draft Plan, questions have been identified to help structure responses:

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?

16) Consultation responses need not be limited to answering these questions. This Draft Plan and SEA are subject to a 12 weeks statutory consultation period. The relevant documents are available on the Scottish Government's website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Consultations/Current and can be obtained in hard copy from:

Offshore Wind Consultation
Marine Scotland
Policy and Planning
Area 1-A South
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ


Tel: 0131 244 1617

17) Responses in writing should be sent to the above address, or emailed to offshorewindconsultation@scotland.gsi.gov.uk by 16 August 2010.

18) A set of stakeholder consultation workshops will be taken forward by Marine Scotland in the coming weeks, to help explain the approach used to develop and assess the plan, and to further explore the environmental and sectoral issues raised in the process.