Why Wind Energy?
In this section you can read about:
- Renewable energy policy in Scotland
- Consenting Regime and Strategic Environmental Assessment
- Marine Bill for Scotland
Scotland accounts for around nine per cent of the UK's total energy consumption, but with around 60GW of renewable energy resources - the equivalent of three-quarters of the UK's installed electricity generating capacity - it has huge potential for renewable energy generation.
In order to build upon this potential the Scottish Government has set clear targets for renewable electricity, announcing an increase in 2011. Ministers want 100% of the demand for Scottish electricity to be supplied from renewable sources by 2020, with an interim milestone of 31% by 2011. The main driver behind this development, now and over the coming years, is the Renewables Obligation (Scotland), or ROS. This mechanism places an obligation on electricity suppliers to provide an increasing amount of their electricity supplied from eligible renewable sources.
Due to the scale of the resource, Scotland has a significant opportunity for wind energy development, both on and offshore. Onshore wind has developed more rapidly to date but offshore wind is now emerging as a technology with great potential for energy production as well as industrial development.
The seas around the coasts of Scotland support tens of thousands of jobs, generate billions of pounds for our economy, and will play an increasing role in powering our nation through wind and wave power.
In 2009 The Crown Estate (the body responsible for leasing the UK seabed), following a successful application process offered exclusivity agreements to nine companies and consortia, to develop sites which have the potential to generate more than 6GW of offshore wind power.
Within this process Mainstream Renewable Power was offered an exclusivity agreement to develop up to 450MW on our Neart na Gaoithe site - which would provide enough electricity each year to power the residential properties in a city the size Edinburgh.
The Consents Process
The offshore wind farm consent process is underpinned by the surveys, consultation and analysis undertaken as part of the project's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The consent process for wind farms within Scottish territorial waters (inside 12 nautical miles from the coast) is a product of continuing devolution of key responsibilities throughout the UK. Whilst the statutory requirements and consent licences themselves are broadly uniform across the UK, the regulatory bodies, the statutory advisors and stakeholders for the Neart na Gaoithe Offshore Wind Farm are distinct from projects in English/Welsh waters.
Consent is required from Scottish Government under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 to construct and operate a generating station of over 50MW. Other key offshore consents include permission under Section 5 of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA) for the deposit/construction of installations such as foundations, cables and scour protection on or within the seabed and permission under Section 34 of the Coast Protection Act 1949 (CPA) for all works affecting navigation rights, including structures or investigative works that may create obstructions.
Additional consents that may be required include works licences from the relevant port or harbour authorities; permission under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 for the deposit of anything on the seabed that could damage, destroy or obstruct access to wrecks within areas designated under this Act; and approvals from Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) under Section 20 of the Water Environment & Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 and Water Environment (Controlled Activities) Scotland Regulations 2005 for activities liable to pollute or significantly affect the water environment.
The regulatory bodies in Scotland offer a ‘one-stop shop' to process these various applications that Mainstream will submit. Scottish Government (Marine Scotland) will act as the lead consenting body, ensuring that consultees have a single point of contact within the Scottish Government.
Strategic Environmental Assessment
The Scottish Government determined that the proposals to develop and construct offshore wind farms within Scottish Territorial waters constitutes a plan or programme that should be subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). SEA is a key component of sustainable development. It protects the environment and extends opportunities for participation in public policy decision making by
- systematically assessing and monitoring the significant environmental effects of public sector strategies, plans and programmes
- ensuring that expertise and views are sought at various points in the process from SNH, SEPA, Historic Scotland and the public
- requiring a public statement as to how opinions have been taken into account
The finalised offshore wind plan, entitled 'Blue Seas - Green Energy: A Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters', was published by the Scottish Government (Marine Scotland) in March 2011. Of the initial ten sites, three proposed wind farm sites were dropped due to environmental impacts identified through the SEA process. A further two were dropped by developers for reasons unconnected with the SEA.
Scotland's marine resources are of great environmental, social and economic importance. These resources should be managed properly so that future generations can continue to enjoy and benefit from them. It is also important that conservation measures are integrated with economic growth of marine industries that support tens of thousands of jobs and generate billions of pounds for the economy.
The Marine (Scotland) Bill was introduced to Parliament in April 2009 to create a framework for the sustainable management of the seas around Scotland. On 10 March 2010, Scotland's Marine Bill received Royal Assent, making it the Marine (Scotland) Act.
This marks a major turning point in safeguarding the future of Scotland seas and laying the foundations for a more simplified marine planning and licensing system.
The Marine (Scotland) Act provides a framework which will help balance competing demands on Scotland's seas. It introduces a duty to protect and enhance the marine environment and includes measures to help boost economic investment and growth in areas such as marine renewables.
The main measures include:
- Marine planning: a new statutory marine planning system to sustainably manage the increasing, and often conflicting, demands on our seas
- Marine licensing: a simpler licensing system, minimising the number of licences required for development in the marine environment to cut bureaucracy and encourage economic investment
- Marine conservation: improved marine nature and historic conservation with new powers to protect and manage areas of importance for marine wildlife, habitats and historic monuments
- Seal conservation: much improved protection for seals and a new comprehensive licence system to ensure appropriate management when necessary
- Enforcement: a range of enhanced powers of marine conservation and licensing
More information about the Marine Bill is available from the Scottish Government's website.