The Scottish Government has published the Draft Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy.

It is open for consultation until 25 March 2020. The final Plan will then be prepared and presented for approval by the Scottish Ministers.

Purpose

The purpose of the Plan will be to guide the consenting bodies when making decisions on individual licence and consent applications. A cautionary statement is included that the Plan should not be considered as pre-determining those decision-making processes.

The Crown Estate seabed leasing (“Scotwind”) will also be based on the Plan.

10GW

A plan-led system is familiar to on-shore developers. Terrestrial development plans identify broad areas of search for on- shore wind development.

The draft Plan goes further. To ensure delivery of 10GW, which is Scotland’s share of the UK Sector Deal target, a realistic maximum deployment scenario is identified for each area, ranging from 16% to 100%.

Although approximately 2,000 sq.k. of seabed would need to be operationally developed to deliver 10GW, an attrition rate has been factored in, so up to 8,600 sq.km. of seabed is to be made available.

Technology neutral basis

The assessment has been undertaken on a technology neutral basis. The draft Plan identifies a range of water depths, but does not direct what type of technology or technologies should be deployed.

draft Plan Options (DPOs)

The main interest is in the development areas identified on page 13 in the draft Plan, and how those have changed from earlier consultations.

The draft Plan identifies 17 DPOs, split across 5 regions. The extent of some areas has changed; areas have been added in:

  • Outer Solway Firth
  • North west of Lewis

Some areas have been dropped:

  • West of Tiree
  • North west of Orkney
  • North of Shetland

Constraints

The draft Plan acknowledges that some DPOs in the north-east and east regions are subject to constraints:

“high levels of ornithological constraint” – development cannot proceed until there is enough evidence on the environmental capacity for seabirds to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

“further regional level survey and assessment” – knowledge gaps on cumulative impacts and potential impacts during non-breeding season need to be addressed by regional level survey work.

Comment 

The draft Plan shows impressive ambition for offshore wind in Scotland. It is clearly underpinned by a substantial amount of assessment work, and information from previous consultation exercises. It will be interesting to see how the draft Plan is received by the offshore wind industry and other stakeholders.