The developments, sited off the Caithness coast, will be capable of generating up to 1,866 MW of electricity when completed. That’s enough energy to power more than one million homes. Moreover, the development would represent an infusion of £2.5 billion to the Scottish economy while generating around 4,600 jobs during peak construction and up to 580 positions once in operation.
Commenting on the announcement, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Scotland has the potential to lead the development of an exciting, new renewables industry as offshore wind moves into deeper waters. Offshore renewables represent a huge opportunity for Scotland — an opportunity to build up new industries and to deliver on our ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction targets.”
Heretofore, according to Ewing, offshore wind had been delayed by the process of the UK Government’s Electricity Market Reform. However, these latest two consents, observers say, offer tangible progress towards real investment opportunity in Scotland.
Lindsay Leask, senior policy manager for Scottish Renewables, is encouraged to finally see the “first-ever consent being granted for a large-scale commercial offshore wind farm” in Scotland. “This is a really important step forward for the industry, which has the potential to generate massive amounts of renewable power and support significant numbers of new jobs,” Leask noted.
Others, such as Gina Hanrahan, climate and energy policy officer at WWF Scotland, took a more tempered approach. While she called the decision a "strong vote of confidence for the offshore wind sector in Scotland," she stressed that it’s important that the developers work with all interested stakeholders to avoid or minimise any impacts on the marine environment. "This means there must be a clear commitment to post-consent monitoring and the sharing of all data to enable other developers to quickly learn and refine their future plans,” Hanrahan explained.
Indeed, the consents are granted subject to strict conditions which will mitigate and monitor a range of potential impacts, including in relation to birds and other environmental considerations. To that end, the developers are required to undertake local, regional, and strategic bird monitoring and must comply with a number of plans -- such as the Environmental Management Plan and the Operation and Maintenance Programme -- to ensure effective mitigation takes place.
Rest assured, Scotland’s commitment to environment and the successful, sustainable development of an offshore wind sector is unwavering. As Minister Ewing explained: “The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places. Scottish planning policy is clear that the design and location of any onshore and offshore wind farm should reflect the scale and character of the landscape or seascape and should be considered environmentally acceptable.”