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Blue Seas - Green Energy: A Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters - Part B Post Adoption Statement

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B5. FURTHER RESEARCH

B5.1 This section provides information on current and future research which can be used to facilitate the marine planning system including planning for offshore wind, in Scotland.

B5.2 With regards to the Offshore Wind Sectoral Marine Plan, as more detailed information on particular SEA receptors becomes available over the life-time of the Plan, and the offshore wind industry develops, further research and data will be collected on the offshore environment. This will help to inform and refine the potential impacts associated with the developments. The information will be used to further the understanding of impacts associated with wind energy and the development of industry best practice and standards. Not only would this better safeguard Scotland's resources, it sets the stage for Scotland to play a leading role in sustainable management of an offshore renewable industry.

B5.3 The following sections set out further research priorities which will be progressed over the next two years. The outcomes of any research studies will be given due consideration when the implementation of the Offshore Wind Sectoral Marine Plan reviewed after two years.

B5.4 There is a need to continue communicating and addressing issues through the Scottish Coastal Forum and the Marine Strategy Forum or a sub-group of relevant stakeholders. The research outlined within this section will benefit from being steered by groups who represent the key sectoral and environmental stakeholders. This will allow key issues from each sector to be given full and proper consideration in any such studies.

B5.5 It should be noted that the list within this section is not exhaustive and will be subject to change as new issues arise.

B5.6 The remainder of this section comprises:

  • National Level - Current Studies;
  • National Level - Potential Studies;
  • Regional Level - Current Studies;
  • Regional Level - Potential Studies; and
  • Data Management.

National Level - Current Studies

Use of MaRS Spatial Modelling

B5.7 Spatial modelling can be used to bring together a wide range of types of spatial data (for example wind resource availability, environmental sensitivities, the intensity of current uses of an area, for example for fishing) and to display and combine them to provide a framework for spatially-based multifactorial aid for decision-making. The MaRS spatial modelling tool is such a system, and contains a very large number (more than 400) data layers. MaRS can be used to select relevant data layers and to combine them through scoring and weighting procedures.

B5.8 In the case of offshore wind development, the consultants undertaking the SEA Environmental Report production were asked by the Scottish Government's Offshore Wind Energy Group to explore medium term options using the MaRS model. The consultants undertook this exercise and reported back to the pre-consultation workshops and steering group meeting held in February 2010. At a pre-consultation workshop, the issue of scorings and weightings was the subject of significant discussion. Consultees expressed views on the values used, but it was recognised by the attendees that it would be very difficult to achieve a set of scorings and weightings which would result in a robust consensus view on the values among the range of consultees involved at the workshop and the consultees not present at the meeting.

B5.9 The workshop view was that the consultants should use as simple an approach as possible so that the model subsequently built by the consultants would be relatively easily understood and could be run in a transparent manner. The underlying concept was that the model could be further developed and refined in a practical manner, within the SEA 2 year review cycle. The medium term options were therefore to be considered as future areas of search for development opportunities.

B5.10 In response to concerns expressed by the fishing, shipping and conservation sectors, Marine Scotland Science ( MSS) revisited the consultants MaRS modelling work, with particular reference to the identification of the medium term options (2020-30). The purpose of the revisit was to explore the sensitivity of the outcome of the MaRS modelling undertaken as part of the development of The Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters to the underlying decisions made during the MaRS modelling. Such a sensitivity assessment is consistent with procedures used in the MaRS modelling to identify potential development areas in the context of the Scoping Study for the Saltire Prize for wave and tidal energy projects.

B5.11 The output from the MaRS modelling that was used to develop the proposals for medium term wind farm development in Scottish Territorial Waters has been shown to be sensitive to technical factors, such as the categorisation of data layers as representing complete (exclusion models) or partial (constraint models) constraints on development, the weighting applied to the layers, and the classification system used to create the scores. However, the degree of sensitivity differs between sea areas.

B5.12 Some of the sensitivity probably arose through the use of a single model of environmental constraints. This required that relative weightings were developed for very diverse types of data ( e.g. the relative weighting of seabird colonies, wrecks, fish landings, and basking shark sightings). This is very difficult to do without some clear additional frame of reference, such as consenting risk. Alternatively, grouping the data layers into themes ( e.g., conservation, recreation, heritage, commercial uses, etc) would present fewer conceptual problems, and assessing the sensitivity of the outputs to variation in the overall weighting between themes could be achieved.

B5.13 It is also clear that improvements in the available data have occurred since the Draft Plan was prepared in the first quarter of 2010. For example, European Seabird at Sea ( ESAS) data are now available in a compiled form suitable for inclusion in spatial modelling. Other data layers are likely to be updated and improved during 2011 and 2012. It is likely that the data available by 2012 should allow a more robust analysis of the medium term opportunities for wind farm development. The executive devolution to Scottish Ministers of responsibility for planning (and licensing) in Scotland's seas from 12 - 200 miles in 2009 through the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act suggests that an integrated wind farm development plan covering Scottish Territorial Waters and Scottish Offshore Waters will be considered.

Fishing Spatial Analysis

B5.14 Understanding the spatial distribution of fishing activity is central to the sustainable use and development of Scotland's waters. Fishing is an economically and culturally important activity which brings considerable benefits to Scotland, particularly to coastal communities. There is a recognised need to consider fishing, and the habitats and species on which commercial fisheries ultimately depend, when planning offshore wind and other marine renewable energy developments in Scottish territorial waters, at both the national and regional level and it is acknowledged that further work in with the fishing industry is required.

B5.15 At present, Marine Scotland does not have ready access to detailed, spatially resolved information on fishing activity. The information which is available and which has been used in previous assessments and the MaRs model, is relatively broad-scale and is based primarily on the Vessel Monitoring System ( VMS) records which is limited to vessels greater than 15 metres length and landings data reported by ICES statistical rectangle. This approach, although informative, does not take adequate account of the distribution of fishing activity of the smaller fishing vessels which fish mainly in inshore waters and form a significant part of the Scottish fleet.

B5.16 Over the last year, Marine Scotland has developed methodologies and a plan of work to collect and analyse fishing activity data in Scottish territorial waters. The work will involve an interview based questionnaire approach to collect detailed information on fishing locations, gear type target species and to establish usage and economic importance of different fishing grounds. Data collection will initially be limited to a pilot region in Scottish waters and the success of the work will be contingent on industry cooperation. Based on experience gained during the pilot, data collection will be extended to cover other sea areas. These data will be compiled at scales appropriate to the nature of the fishing activity and combined with updated VMS data and other broad-scale information.

B5.17 The overall aim is thus to develop and maintain a comprehensive database of fishing activity in Scottish waters. It is envisaged that data will be made available to users in the form of geographic information system ( GIS) layers, pertaining to the location, type and economic importance of fisheries, for the purposes of marine spatial planning at the regional and national level. It is envisaged that the data resource would also be sufficiently detailed to inform marine licensing applications so as to minimise impacts on fishing. It will also be used in future studies of fishing displacement and cumulative and in-combination effect to underpin regional socio-economic assessment and business impact appraisal.

Impact assessment of offshore wind farms on regional scale hydrographic, coastal and sediment transport processes

B5.18 Offshore wind farm developments have the potential to alter local and regional hydrographic processes (waves and currents) and consequently to affect sediment movement and deposition patterns offshore, and a range of erosional and depositional processes at the coast. In the case of individual development projects, these issues will be addressed in the Plan review and EIA processes, and groupings of offshore wind projects such as occurred off the Firths of Forth and Tay will raise questions regarding cumulative effects.

B5.19 The marine planning process requires that Marine Scotland is able to assess the potential significance of these interactions at a range of potential development sites, as part of the SEA element of the Plan.

B5.20 Marine Scotland Science is therefore developing an integrated approach involving mathematical modelling and field observations of impacts on hydrographic processes, building on work that has been done at wind farms elsewhere, for example at Round 1 and 2 wind farms in the UK, and at other sites in western Europe. The work is planned to begin in year 2011 - 12, and is likely to include assessment of small scale processes such as scour around foundations, consequences for local sediment movement, and consequences for regional scale processes, including interactions with the coast. This will require a conceptual model of sea water circulation and tidal movements around Scotland, with particular reference to potential development areas (Short and Medium term options) and of sediment transport in the region, i.e.

  • Identification of key coastal and shelf processes operating
  • Identification of key coastal sediment transport processes and pathways
  • Determination of process variability due to natural climatic, seasonal and weather variation
  • Identification of processes which are likely to be influenced by renewables developments

B5.21 Such work will also be available as the basis for detailed models of selected areas, should the need arise during development and review of Plans and used to underpin Regional Locational Guidance where relevant

Salmon / Eels / Sea Trout Research

B5.22 Salmon, sea trout and eels are species of high economic and / or conservation value. In recognition of the potential impacts of offshore renewable developments on these species a pair of reviews were commissioned on (1) migratory routes and behaviour 18 and (2) sensitivity to electromagnetic fields and noise 19 by Marine Scotland Science and Scottish Natural Heritage respectively. Given the substantial knowledge gaps identified by these reviews, a research project ( ROAME) has been commissioned by Marine Scotland to scope the potential for further work in these areas. Although it is difficult to pre-empt this work, it is expected that future research will include (1) Assessment of the effects of electro-magnetic field ( EMF) under controlled laboratory conditions (2) Assessment of migration routes in relation to potential interactions with offshore renewable structures (3) Development of genetic tools to assign salmon to geographic area of origin (exact spatial scale of assignment to be determined as part of this work).

Offshore Wind - Carbon Budgets and Emissions Reductions

B5.23 Overall work on carbon budgets and the contribution of offshore wind to emissions reductions targets will be undertaken. This should enable sufficient carbon accounting to be undertaken at the project level.

Navigation Risk Assessment

B5.24 Requirement for a comprehensive navigation / traffic assessment under a national / regional strategy, which takes into account work carried out be developers to understand safety hazards associated with potential interaction of offshore wind development with the shipping industry. The objective would be to fully understand the potential impacts with respect to safety and navigation, rights of innocent passage, commercial and carbon implications, with full cognisance of the potential benefits that a strong wind industry can bring, in order that robust and equitable mitigation measures may be developed. It is likely that this study may be progressed on a regional basis ( e.g. Firth of Forth) and scoping will help identify those priorities. The development of a steering group may be required to progress this action.

National Level - Potential Studies

Further Research on Biodiversity

B5.25 As a result of the HRA, a specialist 'data gaps' group will be established to take forward requirements for specific information on biodiversity, flora and fauna. There is a need to develop a programme of research which addresses known data gaps in order to provide a fuller baseline that can be used to inform future assessments at the national level (through the Plan review) and at a regional scale. Based on the findings of the HRA, SEA and associated consultation, this should include, as a priority, research on:

  • The extent to which marine mammals and certain fish species respond to industrial marine noise, vibration and EMF, allowing frameworks to be developed to assess the population consequences of acoustic disturbance and the potential benefits of different mitigation techniques.
  • Further research on cumulative impacts on marine mammals, taking into account activities such as pile driving and linking with work to establish the effectiveness of mitigation measures.
  • The broad-scale movement patterns of certain seabirds, in order to assess both cumulative impacts and the extent to which activities at development sites may affect populations within SPAs, SACs, or other protected sites. Gap filling surveys have been suggested to address issues arising from the expected DECC report on offshore bird survey movement. Use of radar monitoring, information on migration, research into foraging ranges and areas used by priority species, population level information, monitoring of avoidance responses and flight elevation, and preparation of sensitivity indices for relevant bird species have all been suggested by consultees.

B5.26 Information is required on the potential nature conservation benefits that will occur as a result of the provision of additional habitat and associated navigation safety zones and changes to fishing practices caused by the presence of offshore structures. Consideration should be given to experience from the construction of other offshore structures in terms of improvements to biodiversity e.g. the construction of offshore reefs in the UK for coastal defence purposes have in some areas increased shrimp populations. Some consultees proposed further work exploring potential impacts on key habitats including machair.

B5.27 This information should be co-ordinated to provide an agreed baseline for biodiversity that can be used by all parties. Information on all known sensitive marine sites and features should be collated and presented using GIS in order to ensure that data are spatially presented and accessible.

Water Resources

B5.28 Further consultation with SEPA will be required on the Water Framework Directive guidance. This will focus on regions with potential for cumulative and in-combination effects to ensure that the Plan is not compromising any of the WFD objectives. As outlined in the SEA, there will be a need for further water related effects from development, to address the current uncertainties arising from the process.

Landscape and Seascape Effects

B5.29 Further work is required to provide a clearer basis for assessment of landscape, seascape and visual effects. Consideration should be given to the sense of scale, distances, differing landscape/seascape, existing focal points in the landscape, effects of skylining, remoteness, wildness and landform types as well as the value of landscape/seascapes. In addition, further coastal landscape capacity studies will be required. The development of any such work should involve key agencies including SNH and Natural England.

B5.30 Marine Scotland will seek to cover the parameters which result in impact level of significance, initially within the proposed Offshore Wind Licensing Manual commission, but further work will be required in partnership with SNH, Natural England and relevant planning authorities to further consider the value of coastal landscapes and seascapes and how or if impacts can be accommodated at the regional scale. Work to develop seascape character assessment guidance by SNH and Nautral England, further reviews of the special qualities of National Scenic Areas, mapping of wild land, isolated coasts and AGLVs will all provide increasingly robust datasets that can be taken into account as the Plan is reviewed. In addition, reconsideration of the landscape and seascape and visual impact assessment guidance will play a key role in informing future assessments.

Historic Environment

B5.31 A working group should be established with Historic Scotland and the national heritage bodies of bordering countries to ensure offshore developments add to the existing knowledge of cultural heritage. In response to issues raised during the SEA process, this group should explore the scope for a regionally co-ordinated programme that aims to refine and supplement existing data on areas with potential for submerged archaeological remains. This will provide an improved baseline that can be used to inform assessments at the project level.

Wave Climate and Impacts

B5.32 Further assessment work is required on the effects of offshore wind developments on wave climate. A working group should be established involving SNH and the JNCC, RYA, the Shipping and Fishing Sectors, and other relevant stakeholders to steer further study in this area.

Understanding Technological Development

B5.33 Some of the assessment conclusions emphasised the importance of monitoring and responding to developments within the offshore wind energy sector. This included the emergence of new turbine technologies and future plans for offshore wind beyond the 12 nautical mile limit. In addition, the scope and effectiveness of construction methods and engineering techniques to be deployed to reduce impacts on the environment should be monitored as construction progresses. This includes issues around pile driving and mitigation measures such as bubble curtains.

Tourism and recreation

B5.34 As proposed by consultees, further research is needed in the form of a more comprehensive survey to identify important and popular sites for recreation in the marine and coastal environment. This should be coupled with a fuller understanding of the impacts that turbines can have on recreation including on coastal processes as they relate to recreational use of the sea.

Regional Level - Current Studies

B5.35 Considerable work is already being undertaken by developers at a regional scale, to combine and establish a fuller baseline, and more fully consider the likely cumulative effects of short term sites at a regional scale. There is no need to closely steer this work, as it will be defined on the basis of fuller information being gathered at the local level. However, it is important that (a) it is not duplicated at the national scale or in work by other organisations and (b) the information can be fed back to the national level monitoring group, to help provide a clearer picture of national level progress and issues.

Regional Level - Potential Studies

B5.36 There are a number of potential additional research studies including the suite of monitoring and research which underpins the development of Regional Locational Guidance which will prove beneficial to regulators and developers for the progression of offshore wind at a regional level. These include:

  • Seabed mapping/classification in some areas should be undertaken to identify and avoid geologically important features. NB certain biodiversity issues are strongly linked to geology - e.g. Annex II reefs, maerl beds, herring spawning grounds.
  • Further ecological survey work (including aerial and ship-based surveys) and research to clarify the offshore distribution and abundance of key species, including benthic ecology, marine mammals, fish and birds.
  • Study to identify and assess likely scheduling and duration of key disturbance activities ( e.g. piling) during construction, operation, and decommissioning. This study is needed to determine possible impacts on seasonal movements of various species.
  • Regional cumulative impact assessments for biodiversity with particular focus on regionally important species or habitats as indicated by HRA - e.g. Moray Firth's resident bottlenose dolphins. East and west coast cumulative impact assessments already initiated but areas need to be broadened to cover all of STW.
  • Cumulative impact assessment needed for the impact of offshore wind development on seascape and visual amenity on a regional scale and in conjunction with any proposed onshore wind farm developments.
  • Cumulative impact assessment to include assessment of all marine developments on sea-based recreational routes e.g. the displacement of recreational craft into commercial routes and consequent risk to safety.
  • Further research will be required on the value of the natural environment to tourism in areas around short term sites.

Data Management

B5.37 In order to use this data appropriately, there is a need to build the existing database, ensuring that data is collected in a consistent and compatible manner at all sites, and providing an overarching dataset that is stored appropriately and is accessible. To promote the development of industry best practice, and subject to commercial confidentiality, all developers should be required to share and make publically available all information collected or collated on the existing environment and potential receptors in their area within 12 months of its collection. There is considerable scope to build on ongoing work being undertaken by DECC under the COWRIE project, to take into account monitoring information from existing sites and to work with stakeholders including SNH, environmental NGOs and the Crown Estate to develop a more joined up approach to research and monitoring.

B5.38 The development of protocols for data management will bring substantial benefits and are to be developed in advance of the main phase of data collection. Marine Planning is not currently developed in Scotland but will be functional in the future. These data will clearly inform Regional Marine Planning. Given its lead in the process of Marine Planning, Marine Scotland will develop data collection protocols and subsequently manage of data collection and reporting.