Sectoral marine plan: regional locational guidance

Sets out regional spatial baseline data for the sectoral marine plan for offshore wind energy and describes the information used in the planning and assessment process.

1 Introduction

1.1 Background

1.1.1 The Scottish Government has developed a plan for future commercial scale offshore wind development in Scottish waters in the period to 2050[1]. The plan builds on the previous draft plan for offshore wind published in 2013[2] and the 2011 offshore wind plan[3]. The plan seeks to provide opportunities for conventional fixed bottom technologies and for deep water wind technologies which may become commercially viable over this time period.

1.1.2 The geographical scope of the plan covers Scottish Waters (0‑200 nautical miles). This includes Scottish Territorial Waters (0-12 nautical miles) and the Scottish Offshore Marine Area (12-200 nautical miles) which is executively devolved to Scottish Ministers under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (Figure 1).

1.1.3 The plan is being developed in accordance with Marine Scotland’s sectoral marine planning process (Figure 2). The National Marine Plan refers to this process in plan policy Renewables 1.  Once adopted, it is intended that the plan will also be reflected in the preparation or revision of relevant Regional Marine Plans.

1.1.4 An informal public consultation on the initial stages of development of the draft Plan was held in June 2018[4]. This included consultation on the following scoping documents:

  • Context Report[5];
  • Social and Economic Impact Assessment scoping report[6];
  • Habitats Regulations Appraisal Pre-screening Report[7];
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment Screening and Scoping Report[8]; and
  • Areas of Search Scoping Report[9].

1.1.5 Currently the majority of offshore wind farms have been built using conventional fixed bottom substructure technology. The maximum depth considered economically and technically feasible for these to be installed is approximately up to 60m of depth[10]. This depth requirement significantly limits the amount of seabed space that can be exploited in Scottish waters. New floating wind turbine technology attached to the seabed by chains and anchors can potentially open up new areas of sea as they are theoretically not limited by depth. At present the maximum depth considered for offshore deployment is 800m as expressed by Statoil in reference to its Hywind technology[11]. Construction and deployment prices of floating foundations may eventually compete with those of fixed bottom technologies[12], if floating wind sees a similarly rapid cost reduction to that which has taken placed in the fixed foundation wind industry.

1.1.6 In order to provide space for the potential development of fixed bottom and deep water offshore wind options, the Areas of Search Scoping study considered the full range of water depths down to 800m. Full details on the criteria applied in the development of the Areas of Search are provided in the Scoping report[13].

1.1.7 The Scoping report identified an initial 24 Areas of Search (AoS) (Figure 3) that could provide suitable locations for conventional and deep water wind options. These 24 AoS were subsequently reviewed and updated, resulting in the identification of 17 Draft Plan Options (DPO) taken forward for further assessment (Figure 3).  

1.1.8 Following consultation on the Draft Plan, further refinement of the areas has been undertaken, to develop the final Plan Options (Figure 4) A full description of the process undertaken to identify the 15 Plan Options is included in Section 1.2 below.

Figure 1: Map of Scottish zone
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 2: Marine Scotland’s sectoral marine planning process
Marine Scotland’s sectoral marine planning process
Figure 3: Evolution of AoS to Draft Plan Options
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 4: RLG offshore wind regions and Plan Option areas
Regional map of Scottish waters

1.2 Identification Plan Options

1.2.1 The sectoral marine planning process (as shown in Figure 2) is an iterative process, informed through stakeholder engagement and evidence from the related social, economic and environmental assessments.  All of the information and consultation feedback gathered has supported the Scottish Ministers in identifying Plan Options for inclusion in the Plan.

1.2.2 The Plan Options have emerged through an examination of spatial data considerations in addition to advice and other related information provided by members of the Steering Groups, as well as consultation with stakeholders  

1.2.3 The key stages of the planning process in relation to the identification of the Plan Options, described in greater detail below, are: 

  • Opportunity and Constraint (O&C) Analysis – Iteration 1;
  • Opportunity and Constraint (O&C) Analysis – Iteration 2 - Single Issue Constraint Analysis;
  • Scoping Consultation;
  • Opportunity and Constraint (O&C) Analysis – Iteration 3; 
  • Identification of Draft Plan Options;
  • Assessment of Draft Plan Options; 
  • Consultation; and 
  • Finalisation of Plan Options.

Opportunity and Constraint (O&C) Analysis – Iteration 1

1.2.4 The identification of initial AoS was carried out through the use of an O&C analysis.  It built upon previous work carried out by Marine Scotland Science in 2011 and the production of draft regional locational guidance for potential deep water floating offshore wind test sites in 2014.  The analysis was iterative, so updates could be incorporated as required in order to reflect stakeholder feedback.

1.2.5 Full details of the O&C analysis can be found in the AoS scoping report published for consultation in 2018.  The O&C analysis sought to identify areas of opportunity for the future development of offshore wind, whilst also identifying areas that minimised potential negative impacts to the environment, other sectors and users of the sea.  This analysis was completed through the use of GIS and numerous spatial data resources. 

Opportunity and Constraint (O&C) Analysis – Iteration 2

1.2.6 Sectoral engagement workshops were held in spring 2018.  The AoS were then refined with consideration to specific spatial issues and feedback from the workshops. 

1.2.7 This refinement process identified a range of distinct AoS (Figure 3).  As the Plan is technology neutral, no commercial or technology specific information was used in this refinement process.

Scoping Consultation – Screening and Scoping Reports

1.2.8 Scottish Ministers consulted on the screening and scoping stages of the Plan process during June and July 2018.  Screening and scoping reports were prepared and published online for the SEA, HRA and SEIA alongside the AoS scoping study.  

Opportunity and Constraint (O&C) Analysis – Iteration 3

1.2.9 Iteration 3 of the O&C analysis considered the responses received during the Scoping Consultation.  For more details see the Consultation Analysis. 

1.2.10 The AoS were refined with consideration to the outputs of the Iteration 3 O&C Analysis. As a result, certain AoS were either removed or refined to avoid/incorporate certain areas of Scottish Waters. 

1.2.11 This stage also considered the areas of seabed proposed by stakeholders via the scoping consultation. A number of the areas proposed overlapped with existing AoS, while others overlapped with areas with higher levels of constraint or entirely new areas.   

1.2.12 Upon review of the above information, Scottish Ministers identified areas to move forward in the plan process.  It should be noted that some additional areas were included at this stage, where there was significant stakeholder interest, but also increased constraint. 

Identification of Draft Plan Options 

1.2.13 The 22 revised Areas of Searchwere made available to the Sectoral Marine Plan Project Board and two Project Steering Groups for consideration and comment.   

1.2.14 Responses from both the Board and Steering Groups, together with the outputs of the initial assessments, were presented to Scottish Ministers to inform their decision on which AoS should progress to the Sustainability Appraisal for more detailed assessment.  

1.2.15 Seventeen revised AoS were selected as DPOs (Figure 3, Table 1).

Assessment of Draft Plan Options

1.2.16 The DPOs identified have been subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA) and Socio-Economic Assessment with reports produced to summarise these[14].  

1.2.17 The assessments completed on the Draft Plan were included within the consultation discussed below.

Consultation on the Draft Plan

1.2.18 The Draft Plan and supporting documents were published on 18 December 2019 and the consultation ran until 25 March 2020, a total of 14 weeks. The Draft Plan and supporting documents were made available on the Scottish Government website and supported by a series of 17 public events around Scotland during February and March 2020, with a further stakeholder event in London in March 2020. A summary of the results of consultation on the draft Plan and further documentation (SEA, HRA, SEIA, RLG, ICIA and EqIA) can be found in the Consultation Analysis Report published in July 2020[15].

1.2.19 The consultation returned a total 195 responses representing 84 organisational respondents (Listed in Appendix C) and 362 individual respondents (a number of the individual respondents were treated as a collective single response having been submitted as part of a petition or a family).  The way in which consultation responses, including transboundary responses, have informed the further development of the Plan is summarised the Post Adoption Statement (PAS)[16].  

Finalisation of Plan Options

1.2.20 The final Plan Options were identified following review of the consultation responses and further information that emerged during the consultation (Figure 4).  The process for identifying the Plan Options from the DPOs is discussed fully within the PAS.

1.2.21 The outputs of this work, published in the Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind (‘the Plan’) will inform a future leasing round for commercial scale offshore wind energy development in Scottish Waters and ensure developments are brought forward in the most sustainable locations.

1.2.22 Section 2 of the RLG provides an overview of the key strategic issues in relation to the Scottish Marine Area.

1.2.23 Sections 3 to 6 provide a baseline for each of the four offshore regions. For each topic, where appropriate information is available, the RLG provides an overview of the baseline topic for each region and information in relation to the relevant Areas of Search identified within each Region.

1.2.24 This Regional Locational Guidance (RLG) represents a key stage in the development of the Plan by providing a strategic baseline for environmental, technical, socio-economic and planning issues in relation to the offshore renewable energy regions of Scotland and the Plan Options.

1.2.25 The RLG:

  • Provides high level information in relation to the Plan Options taken forward to support developers in undertaking project level assessments; and
  • Informs key stakeholders and other interested parties of the key regional issues in relation to developing offshore wind energy in Scottish Waters.
Table 1: Offshore wind areas of search
Region Plan Option Area km²
West W1 754
North N1 1163
N2 561
N3 1106
N4 200
North East NE1 751
NE2 345
NE3 265
NE4 440
NE6 699
NE7 684
NE8 339
East E1 3742
E2 1287
E3 474



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