Offshore wind energy - draft sectoral marine plan: strategic environmental assessment

Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) identifies the likely significant environmental impacts of plans and policies and proposed reasonable alternatives to them.

2 Offshore Wind Energy Around Scotland

2.1 Background

2.1.1 Scotland currently has five operational offshore wind sites with a total capacity of over 900 MW: the Beatrice demonstrator project (two 5 MW turbines), the Beatrice offshore wind farm (588MW) (from mid 2019) the Hywind Scotland Pilot Park project (floating wind, 30 MW capacity), Robin Rigg (180 MW capacity), Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine (one 7 MW turbine), the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre deployed 11 turbines, with a total capacity of 93 MW and Kincardine Offshore Wind (with one 2 MW floating turbine currently operational). Furthermore, there are several projects in Scotland which are consented but not yet built or are in planning. Ongoing offshore wind developments are captured in Table 1.

2.1.2 As 2020 targets for renewable energy generation near[18], and Scotland pursues more ambitious reductions in its greenhouse gas emissions, the focus has broadened to consider the potential to expand offshore wind energy, including both shallow (suitable for fixed bottom turbines) and deep waters. The term 'deep waters' in this context typically refers to depths greater than 60 m.

2.1.3 There is limited sea area with water depths less than 60 m in Scottish waters suitable for the development of fixed bottom offshore wind, particularly on the west coast where water depth shelves rapidly beyond 100 m. Areas of shallower water are restricted generally to inshore waters, or around major firths (Firth of Forth, Moray Firth, Solway Firth).

2.1.4 It is estimated that over 80% of Europe's wind energy passes over waters deeper than 60m in depth, with a potential yield of 4000 gigawatts (GW)[19]. Deep waters are particularly common in the Atlantic Ocean and areas of the North Sea[20] and it is estimated that the energy that could be derived from deep water turbines in the North Sea alone could exceed the EU's electricity requirements four times over[21]. Scotland possesses a significant proportion of Europe's total offshore wind resource[22] and as such, deep waters around Scotland may hold considerable potential for offshore wind energy development.

2.1.5 Scotland has an abundance of deep water resources located close to land[23], particularly off the west coast where the shelf edge drops off fairly near to shore[24]. Sea depths off the west coast vary considerably but generally fall between 10-320m with an average depth of roughly 60m[25]. Waters off the east coast tend to be shallower and more uniform in depth, with a gradual downward slope towards the North Sea, but also include localised trenches and deeper areas of up to 200m depth such as the southeast Moray Firth[26]. Towards the northern reaches of the east coast, average depths tend to increase and past the Shetland Islands, depths of around 110m are found inshore of the shelf[27].

2.1.6 Sea areas outside Scottish Territorial Waters (i.e. past 12 nautical miles) are generally deeper than territorial waters, with large expanses of water at depths of 80-120m[28]. Such areas are particularly extensive in the Scottish portion of the North Sea. Additional areas of water of 120-300m depth are found in regions like the Fladen Ground in the North Sea[29]. The shelf edge west of Scotland presents very considerable challenges to development[30] and installation of developments in this area may benefit from more mature technology and experience from projects tested in other areas.

2.1.7 Waters past the territorial boundary have the potential for lower levels of constraint due to fewer competing environmental, commercial, and heritage interests. For example, at greater distances from shore, noise and visual effects may be reduced[31]. In some instances, this can make such areas particularly suited to accommodating deep water wind energy technologies. In addition, wind resources tend to be stronger and less variable further offshore[32] where deep water is likely to be found, enabling turbines to be more consistently in operation and reducing turbulence.

Table 1 Offshore wind projects (operational and non-operational) in Scotland

Energy Type Name/ Location Company (Project Website) Status Capacity (MW)
Wind Robin Rigg E.ON
Fully operational since September 2010. 174
Wind Beatrice Demonstrator SSE Renewables / Talisman Fully operational - entering decommissioning phase (2024 – 2027) 10
Wind Levenmouth Turbine ORE Catapult
Fully operational 7
Wind Hywind Equinor / Masdar
Fully operational 30
Wind Aberdeen Bay (EOWDC) Vattenfall
Fully operational 93.2
Wind Beatrice SSE Renewables / SDIC / Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners
Fully operational 588
Wind Neart na Gaoithe EDF Renewables
Consented December 2018 (Varied June 2019). 450
Wind Firth of Forth 1 (Seagreen Alpha and Bravo) SSE Renewables

Consent granted October 2014 (varied August 2018 to remove maximum capacity).

Updated application for optimised project submitted September 2018. Construction anticipated to commence no later than 2022.

1050 (1500 for optimised project)
Wind Moray East EDPR
Consent granted in March 2014. Delivery expected early 2020s. 1116
Wind Inch Cape SDIC
New application submitted August 2018. 700
Wind Kincardine Atkins / Pilot Offshore Renewables
Consent received 2017. Currently under construction (one turbine operational) 49.6
Wind Dounreay Tri Demonstration Project Hexicon
Currently on hold, delivery expected 2020 (company in administration) 12
Wind Firth of Forth 2 (Charlie) SSE Renewables
In planning 1800
Wind Firth of Forth 3 (Delta) SSE Renewables
In planning 800
Wind Moray Firth Western Development Area EDPR
Consented June 2019. Delivery potential in mid 2020s 850
Wind Forthwind OWF, Methil Forthwind Ltd Consented, (Consent varied May 2019 to increase capacity) 29.9

Blue Seas Green Energy – A Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind in Scottish Territorial Waters

2.1.8 In 2009, the Crown Estate Commissioners (CEC) undertook the first stage of lease bidding and awarded Exclusivity Agreement awards (the first step towards securing a commercial lease) for 10 sites in Scottish Territorial Waters:

  • Solway Firth;
  • Wigtown Bay;
  • Kintyre;
  • Islay;
  • Argyll Array;
  • Beatrice;
  • Inch Cape;
  • Neart na Gaoithe;
  • Forth Array; and
  • Bell Rock.

2.1.9 In response to the CEC leasing round and to support the sustainable delivery of the potential for offshore wind around Scotland, the Scottish Government made a commitment to produce a SEA of the potential for offshore wind development in Scottish Territorial Waters, to include the 10 site options. A draft plan was developed to accompany the SEA Environmental Report, and thereby ensure that those reviewing the assessment findings during statutory consultation were clear about the emerging proposals.

2.1.10 In addition to the sites identified by CEC, the Scottish Government commissioned a further constraint and opportunity mapping exercise in order to identify additional medium term options, within which there could be further potential for development beyond 2020. The marine spatial planning model, Marine Resource System (MaRS), was used to identify options by mapping environmental and technical constraints as well as resource opportunities. This model identified 30 medium term options (Areas of Search). The 30 medium term options were then subject to a SEA, based on a set of strategic environmental objectives developed with the Consultation Authorities. This resulted in 5 options being ruled out, including South West Option 2 (SW2), due to its proximity to the Beaufort's Dyke munitions dump. As a result, 25 medium term options (Areas of Search) were taken forward in the Sectoral Marine Plan.

2.1.11 In addition to the SEA, a Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA) for the site and medium term options and Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) for the regional implications of the site options were also prepared. A consultation analysis report of all the consultation responses received for the SEA and Plan development process was produced.

2.1.12 In March 2011, Scottish Ministers, following consideration of the key findings from the SEA, HRA, Socio-economic Assessment and consultation analysis, decided that 6 short term sites would be progressed.

  • Islay;
  • Argyll Array;
  • Beatrice;
  • Inch Cape;
  • Neart na Gaoithe;
  • Forth Array.

2.1.13 In addition, Scottish Ministers' recognised the 25 medium term options within the Plan as the starting point for the next strategic planning exercise to support offshore wind energy around Scotland

Draft Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Waters 2013

2.1.14 As per its commitment to a two-year review, Blue Seas – Green Energy was reviewed in 2013 alongside the Sectoral Marine Plans for Wave and Tidal Energy[33]. The review included a re-evaluation of the previous selection of medium term development areas and broadened the geographic scope of consideration to include waters beyond the territorial limit (i.e. out to 200nm). The latter involved identifying both additional medium term Areas of Search as well as areas of deeper water that could become suitable as turbine structure technologies progress and become commercially deliverable at greater depths.

2.1.15 To help refine the potential Areas of Search, Regional Locational Guidance (RLG) was prepared which considered detailed environmental, technical, socio-economic and planning issues in relation to the offshore renewable energy regions of Scotland[34]. This led to the development of an Initial Plan Framework comprising Draft Plan Options which were intended to guide developers towards suitable areas when planning projects to go through a marine licensing process[35]. This Initial Plan Framework was subject to an iterative series of assessments including SEA, an HRA, and a socio-economic assessment, which informed a public consultation on the Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy 2013. This Plan contained 10 draft Plan Options which were subsequently reflected in the publication of Scotland's National Marine Plan in 2015.

2.1.16 However, due to the challenges faced by the offshore wind industry during this period, resulting from the change in subsidy mechanism from ROCs (renewables obligations certificates) to Contracts for Difference, the Draft Plan was never formally adopted by Scottish Ministers'.

National Marine Plan

2.1.17 The National Marine Plan sets out strategic policies for the sustainable development of Scotland's marine resources out to 200 nautical miles. It incorporates plans for the development of a range of sectors, including fisheries, aquaculture, oil and gas, carbon capture and storage, recreation and tourism, shipping, ports, harbours and ferries, submarine cables, defence, aggregates, and offshore wind and marine renewable energy.

2.1.18 It sets out the environmental requirements that constrain development within Scottish waters, and draws out general planning policies (GEN 1 to GEN 21) which are considered when assessing development in the marine environment:

  • GEN 1 General planning principle: There is a presumption in favour of sustainable development and use of the marine environment when consistent with the policies and objectives of the National Marine Plan.
  • GEN 2 Economic benefit: Sustainable development and use which provides economic benefit to Scottish communities is encouraged when consistent with the objectives and policies of this Plan.
  • GEN 3 Social benefit: Sustainable development and use which provides social benefits is encouraged when consistent with the objectives and policies of this Plan.
  • GEN 4 Co-existence: Proposals which enable coexistence with other development sectors and activities within the Scottish marine area are encouraged in planning and decision making processes, when consistent with policies and objectives of this Plan.
  • GEN 5 Climate change: Marine planners and decision makers must act in the way best calculated to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change.
  • GEN 6 Historic environment: Development and use of the marine environment should protect and, where appropriate, enhance heritage assets in a manner proportionate to their significance.
  • GEN 7 Landscape/seascape: Marine planners and decision makers should ensure that development and use of the marine environment take seascape, landscape and visual impacts into account.
  • GEN 8 Coastal process and flooding: Developments and activities in the marine environment should be resilient to coastal change and flooding, and not have unacceptable adverse impact on coastal processes or contribute to coastal flooding.
  • GEN 9 Natural heritage: Development and use of the marine environment must: (a) Comply with legal requirements for protected areas and protected species. (b) Not result in significant impact on the national status of Priority Marine Features. (c) Protect and, where appropriate, enhance the health of the marine area.
  • GEN 10 Invasive non-native species: Opportunities to reduce the introduction of invasive non-native species to a minimum or proactively improve the practice of existing activity should be taken when decisions are being made.
  • GEN 11 Marine litter: Developers, users and those accessing the marine environment must take measures to address marine litter where appropriate. Reduction of litter must be taken into account by decision makers.
  • GEN 12 Water quality and resource: Developments and activities should not result in a deterioration of the quality of waters to which the Water Framework Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive or other related Directives apply.
  • GEN 13 Noise: Development and use in the marine environment should avoid significant adverse effects of man-made noise and vibration, especially on species sensitive to such effects.
  • GEN 14 Air quality: Development and use of the marine environment should not result in the deterioration of air quality and should not breach any statutory air quality limits.
  • GEN 15 Planning alignment A: Marine and terrestrial plans should align to support marine and land-based components required by development and seek to facilitate appropriate access to the shore and sea.
  • GEN 16 Planning alignment B: Marine plans should align and comply where possible with other statutory plans and should consider objectives and policies of relevant non-statutory plans where appropriate to do so.
  • GEN 17 Fairness: All marine interests will be treated with fairness and in a transparent manner when decisions are being made in the marine environment.
  • GEN 18 Engagement: Early and effective engagement should be undertaken with the general public and all interested stakeholders to facilitate planning and consenting processes.
  • GEN 19 Sound evidence: Decision making in the marine environment will be based on sound scientific and socio–economic evidence.
  • GEN 20 Adaptive management: Adaptive management practices should take account of new data and information in decision making, informing future decisions and future iterations of policy.
  • GEN 21 Cumulative impacts: Cumulative impacts affecting the ecosystem of the marine plan area should be addressed in decision making and plan implementation.

Other Offshore Wind Planning/Developments in Scotland

2.1.19 In addition to the strategic planning exercises administered by Scottish Ministers', two additional development zones in Scottish waters were identified by Crown Estate Round 3 in 2010 and have received consent: Moray Firth Eastern Development[36] and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo[37]. The Moray Firth site has since progressed further and obtained a contract for difference.

2.1.20 Furthermore, a number of demonstration projects have been developed or are in the process of development within Scottish Waters. The first of these, Beatrice Demonstration, served as an industry trial of deep water bottom-fixed foundations. The Levenmouth Demonstration Turbine[38] provided research opportunities to help drive cost reduction in offshore wind, whilst the Forthwind project[39] will allow 2B Energy to test turbine technology. In addition, Dounreay Trì[40], Hywind Scotland Pilot Park (later opened as Hywind Scotland), and Kincardine[41] were designated as Scottish Floating Demonstrations to further test and refine floating technologies. In addition, the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre is an offshore deployment centre allowing offshore wind developers and supply chain companies to demonstrate technologies in a representative environment before commercial deployment[42] It has 11 turbines with a capacity of 93.2MW. One of the initial demonstration offshore wind projects, Robin Rigg[43], was developed in Solway Firth and has been operational for around a decade, with an installed capacity of 174MW.

2.2 Draft Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy – 2019

2.2.1 Significant cost reductions in the offshore wind sector in recent years, together with the emergence of floating technology for offshore wind substructures, has encouraged Marine Scotland, as planning authority for Scotland's Seas, to undertake a new strategic planning exercise to inform the spatial development of any future leasing round. The output of this activity will provide guidance and support to the Crown Estate Scotland, which has announced its intention to run a new leasing round (ScotWind) for commercial scale offshore wind technologies in Scottish Waters, in selecting areas for release.

2.2.2 The plan establishes new Draft Plan Option (DPO) areas potentially suitable for wind energy generation in Scotland that are assessed in a SEA (this document), SEIA and HRA. The DPOs (Figure 4) include both shallow and deep water sites. The process undertaken to develop the DPOs assessed within this document is contained in Section 1.2 above.

2.3 Policy Context Overview for Marine Planning and Offshore Wind Energy in Scotland

2.3.1 The 2005 Act and the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 ("2004 Regulations") require Responsible Authorities to identify the broader policy context and environmental protection objectives relevant to the plan, programme, or strategy (PPS) that is being assessed. This section sets out the broader policy environment in terms of relationships and interactions that could emerge between the Draft Plan and other PPS. The policy context is also summarised within Figure 5.

2.3.2 It is also a requirement of the 2005 Act and 2004 Regulations that Responsible Authorities provide details of the character of the environment which may be affected, including any existing pressures and the likely evolution of the environment in the absence of the PPS. The baseline information is intended to help demonstrate how the receiving environment may be affected by the implementation of the Draft Plan. An overview of existing environmental protection objectives of relevance to the Draft Plan is provided in Appendix A.

Figure 5 Policy context of the sectoral marine plan

Figure 5 Policy context of the sectoral marine plan

2.4 Marine Policy

2.4.1 At an international level, the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic integrated and updated the 1972 Oslo and 1974 Paris Conventions on land-generated sources of marine pollution[44]. Specifically, it added an annex covering the protection and conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity[45].

2.4.2 The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive obligates Member States to develop adaptive management strategies to bring their marine environments to Good Environmental Status by 2020 as well as to safeguard the marine resources that underlie key economic and social activities[46]. It allocates responsibility for the marine environment via a regional approach that in the case of the UK, makes use of the existing cooperative framework of the OSPAR Convention[47]. The Directive is implemented within the UK via a three part Marine Strategy[48].

2.4.3 European Directive 2014/89/EU serves as a common framework for maritime spatial planning across Europe[49]. It recognises that a comprehensive and consistent approach to maritime planning can prevent conflicts between sectors, increase cross-border cooperation, and protect the environment by identifying potential effects early and pursuing opportunities for multiple uses of space[50]. Within Scotland, the principles of the Directive are enacted through the National Marine Plan.

2.4.4 The UK Marine Policy Statement provides a vision of 'clean, healthy, safe, productive, and biologically diverse oceans and seas' that is shared by all UK countries and used to guide their respective marine management strategies[51].

2.4.5 The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 strives to help balance competing demands on Scotland's inshore seas[52]. It introduced a duty to protect and enhance the marine natural and historic environment while at the same time streamlining the marine planning and licensing system[53]. It also contains measures intended to boost growth in areas such as marine renewables[54].

2.4.6 The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 devolved new marine planning and conservation powers to Scottish Ministers in the offshore region (12-200nm), in addition to providing a framework for cooperative management of the marine environment between Scottish Ministers and UK Government[55].

2.4.7 Scotland's National Marine Plan fulfils joint requirements under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to prepare marine plans, providing a cohesive approach to the management of both inshore and offshore waters[56] in accordance with EU Directive 2014/89/EU[57] on maritime spatial planning. It seeks to promote development in a way that is compatible with the protection and enhancement of the marine environment[58].

2.4.8 In the context of offshore wind, the National Marine Plan lists several objectives and policies to serve as considerations in marine planning and decision making[59]. Among these are the sustainable development of offshore wind in the most suitable locations; consideration of Regional Locational Guidance and the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plans; and the sustainable development and expansion of test and demonstration facilities for offshore wind and marine renewable devices[60] (Renewable Policies 1-3). The development of the Sectoral marine plan therefore seeks to apply these policies.

2.4.9 Regional marine plans are currently in the process of being prepared by Regional Marine Planning Partnerships within the eleven Scottish Marine Regions (which extend out to 12 nautical miles). Regional marine plans are required to be developed in accordance with the National Marine Plan (unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise) and will be required to take into account the Plan Options identified via the sectoral marine planning process, as well as co-ordination with the CES leasing regime and grid requirements and initiatives.

2.5 Offshore Wind and Renewables Policy

2.5.1 The EU Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC states that 20% of Europe's energy usage must derive from renewable sources by 2020. The 20% figure is an aggregate total made up of individual Member State targets that differ according to each State's starting point and capacity to pursue additional renewable energy generation[61]. Mechanisms and timelines for meeting these targets are detailed in each country's national renewable energy action plan. In November 2016, proposals for a framework of new targets including a 2030 target of at least 27% of energy supplied by renewables, was introduced[62].

2.5.2 Scotland initially committed to obtaining 20% of its energy needs from renewables by 2020[63], surpassing the 15% target set for the UK as a whole. This target was later increased from 20% to at least 30% by the 2020 Route Map for Renewable Energy[64] in light of a complementary increase in the 2020 target for renewable electricity[65].

2.5.3 The Scottish Energy Strategy[66], published in December 2017, set a target of securing 50% of total energy usage from renewable sources as well as a 30% increase in the productivity of energy use across the Scottish economy by 2030. The Strategy lists renewables and low carbon solutions as a strategic priority, including exploring new opportunities for floating offshore wind, as taken forwards into the development of the Sectoral Marine Plan assessed within this SEA.

2.5.4 The Committee for Climate Change has recently published a report, recommending new emissions targets for Scotland and the UK as a whole. In this context there is a recommendation to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. Achievement of this will require the expansion of renewable energy in Scotland, of which offshore wind is likely to form a significant contribution.

2.5.5 Proposals for offshore wind development within the DPOs will be subject to the standard leasing, licensing and consenting processes and the need for further project-level assessment (in accordance with the Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 (as amended) and the Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 (as amended) and the Habitats Directive. Licence decisions must also be taken in accordance with the National Marine Plan.[67] Further detail on these processes are contained in the Licensing and Consenting Manual.[68]

2.5.6 Licences for offshore wind energy developments are covered by the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 for those components located within territorial sea limits (i.e. to 12 NM from shore)[69], the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 for those lying outside the territorial boundary (i.e. beyond 12 NM from shore)[70]. Onshore aspects such as cable connections are regulated by the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, with applications administered by the relevant planning authority[71]. Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 mandates that the construction, extension, and operation of any offshore wind and water driven developments with a generating capacity of at least 1MW in UK territorial waters must receive Ministerial approval.

2.5.7 Offshore renewable energy installations will need to be decommissioned at the end of their operational life. From 1 April 2017, Scottish Ministers have powers under the Energy Act 2004 (Part II Chapter 2), to require developers of offshore renewable energy projects in Scottish Waters and the Scottish part of a Renewable Energy Zone, to prepare a decommissioning programme, detailing how they intend to remove the installation when it comes to the end of its useful life and how the costs of doing so will be funded. This programme should include a base case of all infrastructure being removed, alongside any alternatives that the operator proposes, backed up by evidence and reasoning for the preferred option. It is accepted decommissioning methods and processes will vary according to the individual projects.

2.5.8 Developers are required to assess potential decommissioning impacts in their EIA report and decommissioning programmes must be approved prior to the commencement of construction activities. Marine Scotland will be consulting on draft guidance for the decommissioning of offshore renewable energy installations in the final quarter of 2019 and into 2020. However, until that guidance is finalised developers should ensure that they have fully read and followed the current UK Government guidance on decommissioning offshore renewable energy installations, which clearly sets out the presumption in favour of full removal and the relevant international and national standards and legislation which must be adhered



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