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The race is on for new offshore wind sites

A review of Scotland’s seabed is set to create opportunities for more off-shore wind farms.

A discussion document outlining plans to lease more of Scotland’s seabed to encourage further exploitation of offshore wind potential and the opening up of economic opportunities was released by Crown Estate Scotland in May. 

Scotland already boasts two operating offshore windfarms – Robin Rigg and Hywind Scotland – with several gigawatts of power under construction including the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm and Moray East, both in the Moray Firth. 

The auction and leasing process requires applicants to have consent and other permissions from Marine Scotland, the Scottish Government’s offshore waters protection agency, before Crown Estate Scotland is able to grant a lease. 

For developers this can be a risky process, committing significant resource to the research and application process of a project before having the security of a lease over the seabed and the rights to lay cables. 

However, Crown Estate Scotland, in acknowledging this, may grant an option over the seabed, offering the developer exclusive rights to a site and setting out the terms upon which a lease will be granted. This should give comfort to developers and is encouraging for the offshore wind sector.

Marine Scotland is currently identifying general areas of the seabed with development potential which will be outlined in a consultation document, to be published later this year. Once an official draft plan of these areas has been released, applications can be made to Crown Estate Scotland.

Having been involved in more than 100 onshore wind and several offshore projects across Scotland, as well as other marine infrastructure projects, Galbraith is well placed to offer early advice to developers looking to take advantage of this round of sea-bed auctions. Galbraith has significant involvement in obtaining onshore grid connections and understand the requirements for large scale projects including referencing potential routes, negotiating complex land rights, working alongside legal teams, advising on compensation mitigation and providing practical, reasoned advice during the design and construction phases of cable route and sub-station assets.  

Whilst costs on-shore are less onerous than they are off-shore, getting the power to grid is essential and often overlooked and should be considered early in the scoping process.

Given the lengthy timescale involved in these projects and the upcoming release of potential development, the race is now on.