Scotland's National Marine Plan

This Plan covers the management of both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore

waters (12 to 200 nautical miles). It also applies to the exercise of both reserved and

devolved functions.

11. Offshore Wind and Marine Renewable Energy

Objectives and policies for this sector should be read subject to those set out in Chapters 3 and 4 of this Plan. It is recognised that not all of the objectives can necessarily be achieved directly through the marine planning system, but they are considered important context for planning and decision making.



Economic Marine Ecosystem

Sustainable development of offshore wind, wave and tidal renewable energy in the most suitable locations.


Economic Social

Economic benefits from offshore wind, wave and tidal energy developments maximised by securing a competitive local supply chain in Scotland.



Alignment of marine and terrestrial planning and efficient consenting and licensing processes including but not limited to data sharing, engagement and timings, where possible.



Aligned marine and terrestrial electricity transmission grid planning and development in Scottish waters.


Climate Change

Contribute to achieving the renewables target to generate electricity equivalent to 100% of Scotland's gross annual electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020.


Climate Change

Contribute to achieving the decarbonisation target of 50gCO 2/kWh by 2030 (to cut carbon emissions from electricity generation by more than four-fifths).


Economic Social Marine Ecosystem

Sustainable development and expansion of test and demonstration facilities for offshore wind and marine renewable energy devices.


Economic Social Marine Ecosystem

Co-ordinated Government and industry-wide monitoring.

Key references

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

Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Wind, Wave and Tidal Energy (once published)

Pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan (once published)

Scotland's Offshore Wind Route Map - Developing Scotland's Offshore Wind Industry to 2020 and Beyond

Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Waters - Regional Locational Guidance

Tidal Energy in Scottish Waters - Regional Locational Guidance

Wave Energy in Scottish Waters - Regional Locational Guidance

Marine Licensing Manual

Marine Licensing Guidance

National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3)

National Renewables Infrastructure Plan. Stage 1. Scottish Enterprise

National Renewables Infrastructure Plan. Stage 2. Scottish Enterprise

Scotland's Marine Atlas: Information for the National Marine Plan. Chapter 5: Renewable Energy and Power Cables. Pages 162-165.

National Marine Plan interactive ( NMPi). Productive/Renewable Energy and Cables section.

Part 1: Background and context

11.1 Scotland's sea area has an estimated 25% of Europe's offshore wind and tidal resource and 10% of the wave resource. The Scottish Government is committed to building a globally competitive offshore wind and marine renewables industry based in Scotland to take forward the transition to a low carbon economy while ensuring security of energy supply.

11.2 Scotland has set ambitious targets for renewable energy by aiming to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland's own electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020 and to deliver an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Offshore wind and marine renewables will play a part in this and the role of offshore generation will increase further into the 2020s and beyond.

11.3 Within the Scottish marine area, there are a number of planned development sites for offshore wind and marine renewable energy:

  • The Crown Estate 'Round 3' Offshore Wind Sites - these sites were underpinned by Offshore Wind SEA undertaken by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2011.
  • Scottish Territorial Waters Offshore Wind Sites.
  • The Pentland Firth Strategic Area Wave and Tidal Energy sites with 'Agreement for Lease'.
  • 'The Saltire Prize' sites with agreement for lease.

11.4 Within this Plan, since agreements for lease have been awarded, these developments are considered as 'planned developments at the licensing stage'.

Offshore Wind

11.5 As the global wind industry expands further offshore, Scotland is well placed to become a key hub for the design, development and deployment of the next generation of offshore wind technologies. In addition to the planned development sites detailed above for offshore wind, Scotland is also becoming a key location for test and demonstration facilities in renewable energy development. The Beatrice Project in the Moray Firth is the world's first offshore wind deep-water demonstration project and other key projects include the Hunterston Test Centre for Offshore Wind and the virtual hub of test and demonstration facilities which make up the Scottish Energy Laboratory.

11.6 Blue Seas - Green Energy: A Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters was published in 2011 resulting in agreements for lease being awarded to five sites. It has since been reviewed to identify further Plan Options within the Sectoral Marine Plans [114] detailed below.

Marine Renewables

11.7 As stated above, Scotland is a world-leading location in the development of marine renewable energy and has very significant wave and tidal energy resources. The UK Wave and Tidal Key Resource Areas Project [115] found that Scottish waters offer the majority of the UK's wave resources (46 TWh/year) and significant tidal stream resources (32 TWh/year).

11.8 Based in Orkney, the flagship European Marine Energy Centre ( EMEC) celebrated 10 years of real-sea experience in 2013. There have been more grid-connected marine energy converters deployed at EMEC than at any other single site worldwide, and the centre remains the only accredited marine energy laboratory.

11.9 The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters ( PFOW) were the site of the world's first commercial scale wave and tidal leasing round in 2010. Of the existing 38 UK sites leased by the Crown Estate, 25 are in Scotland.

11.10 Wave and tidal energy developments will be further supported by the Crown Estate leasing rounds for new demonstration zones. These zones are in areas which have been selected for their appropriate wave and tidal energy resources and access to necessary infrastructure and can be managed by third party organisations with a good understanding of local interests.

Sectoral Marine Planning

11.11 In the marine environment, planning for offshore renewable energy is progressed in this Plan and Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Wind, Wave and Tidal Energy. Sectoral Marine Plans contain Scottish Ministers policies, including their spatial strategy, to steer commercial scale offshore renewable energy development.

11.12 The areas contained in Sectoral Marine Plans ( SMPs) are referred to as adopted Plan Options. Plan Options are strategic development zones in which commercial scale projects should be sited following further zone appraisal, where appropriate, and consideration of the key strategic issues identified in the SMPs and Sustainability Appraisal. It is not expected that each Plan Option area will be fully developed.

11.13 Plan Options are identified through a multi-stage process involving a scientific scoping exercise to identify areas of resource and constraint. Regional Locational Guidance, detailing relevant information and an early-stage consultation is then applied to refine these 'Areas of Search' into Draft Plan Options. The Draft Plan Options are then subject to a Sustainability Appraisal (including Strategic Environmental Assessment, Habitats Regulation Appraisal and socio-economic assessment) and statutory consultation prior to adoption.

11.14 Proposals for offshore wind and marine renewable developments within Plan Options are subject to licensing and consenting processes. Whilst decision makers must take account of provisions within Plan Options and other material considerations, each application is considered in its own merits.

Part 2: Key issues for marine planning


11.15 Scotland is committed to becoming a centre for global investment in renewable energy and low carbon technology, which represents a significant opportunity for local supply chain companies and international companies looking to expand and develop offshore wind and marine renewable energy. It is anticipated that the development of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy will create significant economic opportunities in Scotland. Marine and terrestrial planning processes can support the delivery of offshore wind and marine renewables and help to ensure infrastructure and onshore facilities are provided in a co-ordinated way.

11.16 Further growth of Scotland's offshore wind and marine renewable energy market can be achieved by attracting trade and investment from multi-national markets which have established renewable energy technology manufacturing capabilities. Work is underway and will continue between government, developers and the enterprise agencies to support early engagement and help facilitate supply chain infrastructure capable of supporting these activities. Scottish research institutions provide a base of academic excellence for delivering technological advancements and technology transfer and are also well placed to benefit from this new industry around Scotland.

11.17 General Policies 2, 3 and 4 in Chapter 4 support the delivery of economic and social benefits from sustainable marine developments and ensure consideration is given to the use of scenario mapping as a planning tool to assess socio-economic implications of commercial scale developments. For commercial scale developments, scenario mapping aims to provide a strategic assessment and decision making tool. This is based on socio-economic and environmental appraisals and focused consultation to inform communities of the effects of project construction, operation and maintenance activities of the practical scenarios a developer would consider when taking forward a project.

Map 9 - Plan Options for Offshore Wind and Marine Renewable Energy

National Renewables Infrastructure Plan ( N-RIP)

11.18 The National Renewables Infrastructure Plan ( N-RIP) is the strategic economic framework for developing Scotland's ports and harbours for the purpose of supporting offshore renewable energy industry needs with associated funding through the £70 million National Renewables Infrastructure Fund. Delivery of N-RIP will help to provide the infrastructure required by a strong supply chain, consisting of diversified and new Scottish companies, as well as encouraging inward investors to locate in Scotland. Opportunities for renewables development and activity are not restricted to the ports identified in N-RIP, with many other ports engaged with developers to support the sector.

Grid Provision

11.19 The full exploitation of Scotland's offshore renewable energy resources, and maximum economic benefit, is dependent on the construction and improvement of both onshore and offshore grid capacity.

11.20 NPF3 recognises the importance of offshore wind and marine renewables and aims to ensure that planning facilitates development of the onshore elements that support offshore projects. Enhancement of the electricity transmission grid, a national development in NPF3, includes support for grid connections to offshore renewable energy developments, and an action notes that further work on the marine grid is planned to encourage a more strategic approach. NPF3 also identifies five energy hubs around the coast where development will require a co-ordinated approach to ensure development takes place in a way that is balanced with coastal environments and communities: Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters, Peterhead, Grangemouth, Cockenzie, and Hunterston.

11.21 The sites identified in N-RIP are also recognised as nationally important sites for investment.

11.22 Sub-sea connections currently exist between mainland Scotland and some of the Scottish islands, and between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Further offshore grid projects for development have also been identified (Map 12). These include:

  • Full integration of the Western and Northern Isles into the GB network. This will involve the construction of High Voltage Direct Current ( HVDC) links between Lewis and the mainland, and from Shetland to the mainland, with a reinforced AC link connecting Orkney to Caithness, to be followed by an HVDC link as generation demands for connections come forward.
  • A rational, cost-effective network of cables to ensure connection between offshore wind development areas around the Firth of Forth/Fife coast, the Moray Firth and the Argyll coast and the onshore network.
  • A west coast 1.8 GW HVDC link between Hunterston and Deeside in North Wales (target for commissioning 2016).
  • An east coast 1.8 GW HVDC link between Peterhead and Hawthorne Pit in Humberside (target for commissioning post 2020).
  • An HVDC link from Spittal, Caithness to Blackhillock, Moray (current likely completion date - 2018).

11.23 The Scottish Government and other key stakeholders will develop a strategy for the marine grid in Scotland and will work with developers to ensure an integrated developer grid connection strategy is incorporated into the sectoral marine planning process to maximise efficient connections which take account of environmental, economic and social factors.

11.24 Chapter 14 provides further information and policies for marine power cables.


11.25 In order to develop the economic potential of offshore wind and marine renewable energy, significant positive interactions are expected with submarine cables, manufacturing, construction, maintenance and ports and harbours sectors.

11.26 Key marine sectors can be affected by marine renewable energy development. Physical competition for space, navigational restrictions and the impact of physical structures in the sea may also affect sectors such as fisheries and aquaculture, marine recreation and tourism, shipping and defence, especially where planned development spatially interacts with existing uses. Impacts can be avoided or minimised through an inclusive approach which identifies affected sector contacts, improves communication between developers and these sectors, identifies the impacts and seeks to address these through effective communication and mitigation strategies.

11.27 Marine sectoral strategies can be developed at the planning stage and sectoral mitigation strategies at the project assessment and application stage to ensure that all affected sectors are aware of developer activities and timetables in appropriate timescales to allow other sectoral activities to be planned to minimise impact as much as possible and for mutual benefits to be maximised.

11.28 Within Plan Options, where there is significant potential for interactions with other marine activities, Regional Locational Guidance, developed in conjunction with stakeholders, will be further developed to support the micro-siting process for development in the areas of least sensitivity.

11.29 The renewables industry is involved in several working groups with the various sectors to develop best practice for co-existence and mitigation. The Fishing Liaison with Offshore Wind and Wet Renewables Group ( FLOWW), set up in 2002 to foster good relations between the fishing and offshore renewable energy sectors, has delivered the publication of the Offshore Renewables and Fisheries Liaison Guidance. [116]


11.30 Offshore wind and marine renewable energy developments could have a wide range of environmental impacts throughout their project life-cycle as set out in Scotland's Marine Atlas: Information for the National Marine Plan. Effects could vary on a case by case basis and will depend upon the specific location, technology, the timing and the approach to activities and pressures from other forms of activity.

11.31 The Scottish Government recognises that improvements can be made to the mechanisms used to address these uncertainties. A new Scottish Offshore Renewables Research Framework with a supporting research strategy is being developed. This new framework will provide a mechanism for understanding, collaborating and co-ordinating research priorities across a range of topic areas. It will also provide a mechanism for new knowledge to feed into updates to the sectoral marine plans and support Marine Scotland's risk based licencing and consenting approach.

11.32 Strategic Environmental Assessment, Habitats Regulations Appraisal and Environmental Impact Assessment will assess key environmental risks which will be taken into account in plan and project development and consenting procedures. A strategic approach to mitigating potential impacts and cumulative impacts on the marine environment forms an integral part of marine planning and decision making, whilst issues arising in the coastal interface should align between marine and terrestrial processes.


11.33 Offshore wind and marine renewable energy is a key part of the mitigation measures and new technologies will put Scotland at the forefront of building a sustainable low carbon economy. Offshore and marine renewables will contribute to Scotland's climate change target for renewable sources to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland's gross annual electricity consumption by 2020 and the decarbonisation target to achieve 50gCO 2e/ KWh of electricity generation in Scotland. Whilst the technologies themselves will involve the use of energy for construction, transportation and maintenance, they will contribute to the decarbonisation of electricity generation through their long-term operation.

11.34 A changing climate may result in changes in storminess which could create difficult operating conditions for offshore installations. Offshore renewable devices may also have the potential to change wave energy dissipation and coastal processes. Depending on the location, these effects could exacerbate the existing vulnerability of coasts to climate change by altering wave patterns and in some cases the effects could contribute to the protection of coastlines susceptible to erosion.

Part 3: Planning policies


Economic SocialRENEWABLES 1: Proposals for commercial scale offshore wind and marine renewable energy development should be sited in the Plan Option areas identified through the Sectoral Marine Plan process [117] (Map 9). Plan Options are considered the preferred location for the sustainable development of offshore wind and marine renewables. This preference should be taken into account by marine planners and decision makers if alternative development or use of these areas is being considered. Proposals are subject to licensing and consenting processes.

Economic Social Marine EcosystemRENEWABLES 2: Agreements for lease for wave and tidal energy sites in the Pentland Firth Strategic Area must be taken into account by marine planners and decision makers if alternative use of these areas, or which would affect access to these areas, is being considered. Proposals are subject to licensing and consenting processes. Regional Locational Guidance and the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plans should also be taken into account when reaching decisions.

Economic Social Marine EcosystemRENEWABLES 3: Marine planners and decision makers should consider proposals for sustainable development of test and demonstration sites for offshore wind and marine renewable energy development on a case-by-case basis where sites are identified. Regional Locational Guidance should be taken into account and proposals are subject to licensing and consenting processes.


EconomicRENEWABLES 4: Applications for marine licences and consents relating to offshore wind and marine renewable energy projects should be made in accordance with the Marine Licensing Manual and Marine Scotland's Licensing Policy Guidance.

Economic Marine EcosystemRENEWABLES 5: Marine planners and decision makers must ensure that renewable energy projects demonstrate compliance with Environmental Impact Assessment and Habitats Regulations Appraisal [118] legislative requirements.

Economic Social Marine Ecosystem Climate ChangeRENEWABLES 6: New and future planned grid connections should align with relevant sectoral and other marine spatial planning processes, where appropriate, to ensure a co-ordinated and strategic approach to grid planning. Cable and network owners and marine users should also take a joined-up approach to development and activity to minimise impacts on the marine historic and natural environment and other users.

Economic Social Climate ChangeRENEWABLES 7: Marine planners and decision makers should ensure infrastructure is fit for purpose now and in the future. Consideration should be given to the potential for climate change impacts on coasts vulnerable to erosion.


Economic SocialRENEWABLES 8: Developers bringing forward proposals for new developments must actively engage at an early stage with the general public and interested stakeholders of the area to which the proposal relates and of adjoining areas which may be affected.

Economic Social Marine EcosystemRENEWABLES 9: Marine planners and decision makers should support the development of joint research and monitoring programmes for offshore wind and marine renewables energy development.

Economic SocialRENEWABLES 10: The Scottish Government Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Offshore Renewable Energy Developments [119] should be followed by developers.

Regional policy: Regional marine plans should consider:

  • Further assessing Plan Options areas against local/updated data knowledge to identify development potential, interactions and compatibility.
  • Co-ordinating and developing a better understanding of the interactions between the sector and the environment and other users.
  • Ensuring better alignment between marine and terrestrial planning.
  • Links to relevant terrestrial plans.
  • Grid requirements and onshore infrastructures for grid. Links to strategic grid initiatives and engagement with these e.g. the North Sea Countries Offshore Grid Initiative [120] could also be supported by regional marine planning.
  • Co-ordinating with the Crown Estate on leasing rounds.

Part 4: The future

11.35 The 2020 Routemap for Renewable Energy in Scotland [121] sets out a comprehensive path of actions to deliver on Scotland's renewable energy ambitions. Offshore wind and marine renewables will play an important role in helping deliver the 100% consumption target by 2020 and pave the way for further deployment of offshore wind energy in the 2020s as grid and interconnection upgrades and storage are further developed.

11.36 It is expected that offshore wind, wave and tidal energy will make a significant contribution towards meeting our future renewable electricity needs. Against this backdrop, Scotland's ambitions for renewables and the delivery of clean electricity in Scotland go beyond current 2020 targets. The Electricity Generation Policy Statement [122] includes a non-statutory decarbonisation target to achieve 50gCO 2e/ KWh of electricity generation in Scotland by 2030. This decarbonisation target is based upon estimates of the development of renewable energy in addition to changes in the patterns of use of thermal energy.

11.37 Forward looking actions for offshore technologies to progress and make the necessary transition to achieve Scotland's 2020 energy targets and 2030 decarbonisation targets include maintaining stability of market incentives and level of support, investment in infrastructure, support for innovation and capital support (for wave and tidal).

11.38 Floating wind turbines capable of deployment in waters deeper than 35 metres are considered to constitute the next technological step for offshore energy generation. They can potentially ensure a high amount of energy in environments that greatly lessen the constraints associated with turbines in shallower waters closer to shore. It is essential that these technologies are tested in a variety of environments to demonstrate all aspects of their functionality and accelerate their technical development. To that end Regional Locational Guidance has been produced to support offshore wind floating and deep-water demonstration projects. Where appropriate, Regional Locational Guidance could also be used to support the early stage development of projects for other emerging technologies and initiatives related to the development of offshore renewable energy.

11.39 The Scottish Offshore Renewables Research Frameworks should provide a collaborative and co-ordinated research programme supporting the sustainable development of marine renewable wind, wave and tidal industries and better inform future marine planning and decision making for offshore wind and marine renewables energy. A future co-ordinated national, regional and project specific environmental monitoring strategy will also be useful to identify potential opportunities for enhancement and recovery of ecosystem services in the exclusion zones around offshore energy generation sites ( i.e. restoration and improvement on habitats damaged during the construction process).


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