Search areas for offshore wind energy: scoping study
Scoping study about identifying areas of search to potentially be developed into draft plan options for offshore wind energy in Scottish waters.
Scotland's seas contain resources and technical aspects that can potentially serve the offshore wind industry. Analyses such as this can be used to visualise where these aspects accumulate. This preliminary study uses the best available data to discern broad locations that may be further investigated to eventually become draft sectoral Plan Options and finally Plan Options. Firstly, it is useful to visualise together all the aspects that are likely to have an impact on the location of a wind farm. This helps to eliminate those locations that are less likely to be able to proceed as development options. Once the potential broad scale locations that offer opportunity are identified, the next process is to apply single issue analysis using key data layers that are expected to generate interactions, for example fishing or shipping. This analysis is used to identify suitable areas within the AoS that avoid constraint. This process underlines the quality control of the process as it helps to ensure that constrained areas that may not have registered in the constraint output are included in the final AoS selection.
One benefit this study enjoyed was that of experience gained from previous consultations on scoping studies for AoS. The initial approach of this study is conditioned by lessons learnt from previous consultations. Aspects that can be considered to be hard barriers to the consenting process have been identified at this stage and not left to be identified at the stakeholder consultation stage. The individual issues that experience tells us are more likely to constitute definite constraints to offshore wind development are: visual impact, shipping, fishing, oil and gas and nature conservation areas.
This study has used the most up to date and detailed data when available. Some issues emerged during this scoping study and these may require further consideration as the sectoral marine plan progresses:
- There may be a relative overweighting of fish life history layers due to these being supplied in four different layers, each with the same weighting (3). Updates of the spawning data were available for cod and haddock but not for all species. Older spawning layers had to be used to represent other species ( CEFAS, 1998).
- The leisure use of Scottish waters has been taken from the Scottish Marine Recreation and Tourism Survey ( LUC, 2016). The derived heat map of overall activity provides new geographical data that describes where human leisure activity happens around the Scottish coasts. Since the leisure activity map is based on voluntarily provided data some bias due to larger responses at locations of larger populations can be expected. As such, interactions with AoS closer to the shore may be higher than the opportunity and constraint process describes the sectoral process will address these issues and specific regional activities will be considered.
- Seascape was not included as a data layer in this analysis. Visual impact has proven to be an important part of the constraints that can affect the consenting of offshore developments. Suitable layers to express the relative importance of the view at a national level were not available at the time of this study. The revised AoS are generally further offshore and as such, are less likely to generate visual impact from the coastline. Should visual impact issues be identified as being potentially generated by the suggested AoS these will be addressed through the sectoral plan process.
- Different considerations of interaction with different types of fishing activity was assumed. Demersal, scallop and nephrops trawling activities were deemed wholly incompatible with any development. Creeling was deemed potentially more able to co-locate with offshore wind developments. Seasonally changing shorter term fisheries like pelagic and squid fishing were considered more capable of absorbing the effect of offshore developments than demersal, scallop and nephrops trawling activities.
- Information on seals and basking sharks was not included in the analysis. These issues will be considered as the plan progresses should they need to be addressed
- Seabird population interactions were considered to be reduced in overall amount given the increased distance from shore of the revised AoS.
- The cetacean distribution layer would benefit from an update. This would improve the consideration of these important species in a conservation context
- The offshore wind layer used was generalised and presented little in spatial variation, especially when re-classified to three classes. This is sufficient for this stage of the study as it will be expected that particular developments will investigate the regional resource variations if consented.
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