Scottish Waters To Be Opened For “New Generation” Of Offshore Wind

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New plans have been unveiled to lease the seabed around Scotland for a “new generation of offshore wind projects” that proponents of the technology hope will not only provide further and solid energy independence for the country but would also create incredible new jobs and investment.

The Crown Estate Scotland — which manages the first 12 miles off the coast of Scotland and which passes the money it makes from offshore renewables to the Scottish Government for public spending — published a discussion document on Monday proposing new seabed leases that seek to encourage a “new generation of offshore wind projects in Scotland’s waters” and the “need to start work now to ensure new projects can be built from the late 2020s and onwards” given the fact that an offshore project can take anywhere from five to ten years to develop and construct.

“Using our seas to power Scotland is an important part of our economic and environmental well-being,” said John Robertson, Senior Energy & Infrastructure Manager at Crown Estate Scotland. “To provide affordable, secure and clean energy, Scotland must continue to sustainably use its natural resources and grow the offshore wind sector.”

The new discussion paper outlines the draft process and seeks interested parties to invest in feedback to help shape the Crown Estate’s final approach to seabed leasing. Specifically, a second pending document — Marine Scotland’s forthcoming Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind — will dictate areas identified for offshore development that will be made available through this new leasing proposal. The new proposals for offshore wind leasing aim to not only provide developers with guidance, but also signals the Government’s support for supply chain development, sector innovation, the creation of jobs, and stimulating local economic growth. Strong statements of intent such as this are likely to spur the Scottish offshore sector on to even greater heights.

“We hope our proposals, which are informed by discussions with developers and others, help create long-term momentum for the offshore wind industry in Scotland,” John Robertson added in email to me. “Other developments and policy work – such as the proposed sector deal for offshore wind which sets out a vision for 2030 and Marine Scotland’s planning exercise for offshore wind – are also important in creating long-term certainty. We at Crown Estate Scotland are committed to helping the sector develop and grow in a way that maximises the broader benefits for the climate, consumers, the supply chain and communities.”

At the moment, the proposals do not give much room for predicting potential capacity additions as a result of the new seabed leases — which is unsurprising, given not only the need for analysis of the new locations, but also the development of ever-larger and more powerful wind turbines.

“Capacity will be determined by a range of factors including Marine Scotland’s planning exercise, technological innovations (e.g. new and more powerful turbines being developed) and level of investment that developers can secure,” John Robertson said. “What Crown Estate Scotland wants to do is create a framework for seabed leasing that provides stability, certainty and transparency – that will help Scotland attract inward investment from the global market.”

Scotland already boasts two offshore wind farms in operation — Scotland’s first offshore wind farm, the 180 megawatt (MW) Robin Rigg Offshore Wind Farm located in the Solway Firth, and the world’s first floating wind farm, the 30 MW Hywind Scotland project which was reported earlier this year to already be generating above expectations. Scotland also boasts two more offshore projects already under construction — the 588 MW Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm which will be the country’s largest upon completion in 2019, and the 92 MW European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay, which will serve as one of the world’s leading offshore wind test and demonstration facilities. Scotland also has another 1,400 MW that is due to begin construction over the next few years, and a further 4,000 MW or projects that have already received consent or are in various stages of planning.

The new seabed lease proposals will, therefore, only continue to spur offshore wind development in Scotland and help to solidify the country as one of the world’s leading locations for offshore wind power, development, supply, and expertise.

“The offshore wind projects which are currently being developed in Scotland are already providing enormous economic benefits to our country,” said Fabrice Leveque, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables. “The Beatrice scheme in the Moray Firth, for example, will deliver up to £1.2 billion into the UK and Scottish economy via employment and supply chain opportunities during its lifetime.

“Crown Estate Scotland’s proposals set the tone for the future of this vibrant sector. New sites would allow us to capture more of our offshore wind resource and enable Scotland’s burgeoning offshore wind supply chain to gear up and grow, delivering jobs and investment not just on our coasts, but across the country.”

“We want to devise a new leasing process which encourages developers to select suitable sites for new offshore wind development,” the new leasing document explains. “This will support supply chain development and sector innovation, creating jobs and stimulating economic growth. To achieve this, the objectives of the leasing process are to:

  • Provide certainty and clarity to attract investment in a UK, European, and global marketplace
  • Be transparent, open and fair
  • Stimulate competition and innovation
  • Allow early engagement with stakeholders
Image Credit: Beatrice wind, via Twitter

Of particular import is the Crown Estate’s effort “to ensure those who may be affected by our decisions know what we are considering, and provide a clear and simply way for them to respond to us.” So not only is this new proposal document intended to provide developers with the information they need to commit to developing offshore wind in Scotland, but it will open up avenues for Scottish residents to express their concerns and thoughts. Such efforts have been shown to ease the tensions of renewable energy development, answering questions and providing information before construction begins so as to allow nearby residents to know they have been heard.

“The potential benefits of offshore renewable energy to Scotland are enormous,” said Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform. “That is why it is important that Crown Estate Scotland makes available the right seabed locations at the right time, in order to contribute to delivery of our energy strategy, attract inward investment, develop new technology and continue to drive down the associated costs of offshore energy. I therefore encourage anyone with an interest to feedback to help shape Crown Estate Scotland’s contribution to our energy strategy.”

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Joshua S Hill

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