The Next Steps
The current Scoping Study has used new data and improved data handling methods to develop a new view of the potential of Scottish offshore waters for wind energy projects. The Scoping Study did not use the existing Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters as a starting point, but has built upon the Sensitivity Analysis of the spatial modelling that lies behind that Plan to develop a new and more robust approach, comparable to that used for the Scoping Study for wave and tidal power (Saltire Prize).
The use of a themed approach to the spatial modelling has allowed the sensitivity of the models to the relative importance given to different spatial factors to be explored, and the general comparability of the outputs from the four Combined Models gives confidence that the outputs from the current exercise are robust.
There are considerable similarities (and some differences) between the areas identified in the existing Plan as short or medium term search options, and those identified in this Scoping Study as strategic search areas of relatively low constraint on development. In view of the updating of data used, and the modifications to the data handling process between the two modelling exercises, this gives further confidence that the outputs are robust and can form the basis for further work.
As the potential for expansion of offshore wind energy in Scottish waters is becoming more clear, it will be necessary to take greater account of cumulative effects arising from interactions with other developments, or potential developments. For example, existing Round 3 and STW proposals in the Moray Firth, and off the Firths of Forth and Tay will be the background against which cumulative impacts of developments further offshore or in adjacent areas of STW will have to be considered. Similarly, proposals that emerge from the Northern Ireland leasing round may interact with proposals in the south and south west of Scotland.
The current report has extended the scoping study to cover all of Scottish waters, i.e. including the 12 - 200 mile zone. The study shows that there is potential to expand wind farms in Scottish waters well outside the limits of Scottish Territorial Waters. While there are large potential opportunities available using current technologies (up to about 60m depth), the development of new and improved technologies to operate in water of greater depth could release very extensive additional areas for potential development.
The output maps presented in this report cover the whole of Scottish waters. Inevitably, the scale of the maps result in some local detail being difficult to discern, as are details of technical constraints. The next stage in the extension of the Plan for Offshore Wind Energy out from territorial waters to cover all Scottish marine waters is therefore to address each of the potential development areas in more detail through a Regional Locational Guidance process.