Offshore wind power in Scotland

Offshore wind farm developers announced their plans for major development in the outer Forth and Tay areas at a stakeholder event held in Edinburgh.

The proposed sites have a combined capacity of 2,470 MW and the adjacent Round 3 Zone a further 3,700 MW. Award of consent for the individual projects could be granted as early as mid-2012 by the Scottish Government. In order to reach this landmark, major programmes of studies and surveys including; fisheries, shipping, birds, marine mammals and seabed conditions must be completed together with extensive consultations with the relevant stakeholders.

From north to south the four projects inside Scottish territorial waters are:

· Inch Cape, a 905MW project, awarded to RWE Npower Renewables Ltd and SeaEnergy Renewables Ltd (Inch Cape Offshore Wind Farm Limited);

· Bell Rock, 700MW, Airtricity Holdings UK Ltd and Fluor Ltd;

· Neart na Gaoithe, 450MW, Mainstream Renewable Power Ltd;

· Forth Array, 415MW, Fred Olsen Renewables Ltd.

The wind farms are proposed for a location at least 10 km from shore and in a total area covering approximately 475km2.

The opportunity has come about through The Crown Estate’s award of Exclusivity Agreements in February this year to four energy companies to develop offshore wind farms within Scottish Territorial waters in the outer Firths of Forth and Tay. The four companies have formed a working group to ensure that, subject to the outcome of the Strategic Environmental Assessment currently underway, their respective proposals are developed in a manner that is coordinated and sensitive to the environmental and socio-economic features of the Scottish east coast.

Speaking at the event, Energy Minister Jim Mather said:

“Offshore wind represents a massive opportunity for Scotland to tackle climate change, to create jobs and to bring billions of pounds of investment into the Scottish economy. We must capitalise on our natural advantages and capture the economic benefits presented by an infinite supply of clean, green energy. This has been an extremely useful collaborative event to focus minds on how we can realise Scotland’s potential as a world leader in renewable energy technology, research and expertise.”

Since its inception the Forth and Tay Offshore Wind Working Group has; held meetings with representatives of the adjacent Round 3 offshore wind site outside Scottish territorial waters and a number of key stakeholders, defined a common approach to bird studies, commissioned initial navigation studies, prepared scoping document to understand the in-combination and cumulative impacts, and organised a site visit to an operational offshore wind farm for several key consultees. Collaboration on surveys, methodologies and assessments will help ensure that the environmental assessments of the proposals are properly informed and will help development take place in the most responsible and sensitive way possible.

Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, who chaired the event said,

“The Forth and Tay projects match the ambitions of Government and developers with the ongoing challenge to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. Careful liaison with all stakeholders will be critical as the renewables industry develops offshore and this event moves that collaborative work further forward. The prize of new jobs and economic growth while we are tackling climate change will be a big benefit to Scotland and many of its coastal communities in the years ahead."

Over the coming months the working group and its individual member companies will be meeting with key local and national stakeholders to agree the scope of the environmental studies. They will also engage with Scottish industry and the supply chain through open days and individual meetings.

1. Projects could be constructed and commissioned between 2014 and 2018 in order to contribute to the UK’s 2020 renewable energy targets.

2. The projects have a combined capacity of 2,470MW and could generate enough renewable energy to supply around 1.8 million homes and avoid the release of a million tonnes of CO2 each year.

3. The 4 Exclusivity agreements for the Forth and Tay sites form part of a wider award of 10 sites within Scottish territorial waters. In addition there are two Round 3 Zones outside territorial waters on the Scottish east coast (Plan B attached). Individual sites will be identified for development within each of the Zones following the award of Zonal Development Agreements to successful bidders, anticipated at the end of this year.

4. The UK Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy, published in July 2009, commits the Government to a large increase in renewable generation from 5% today to 30% by 2020, stimulating the growth of a new £60bn industry and the creation of 60,000 jobs.