A series of public meetings will be held this month across Scotland by the country’s marine development regulator, Marine Scotland. Offshore wind projects are likely to be a key focus of the meetings, alongside plans for wave and tidal turbines.
Scotland has adopted a target of generating "the equivalent of 100%" of its electricity needs from renewables by 2020. Last week saw substantial media coverage in Scotland about EDP and Repsol’s proposal to build three offshore wind farms in the Moray Firth. Their combined capacity would be up to 1.5GW.
While it is too early to know how strong public support – or resistance – will be for the Moray Firth projects, development of another proposed offshore wind farm, Argyll Array, has been delayed, pending further research on its biodiversity impacts.
Announcing the public meetings, Scottish environment minister, Richard Lochhead, sought to emphasise that the public’s views would inform decision making: "We are at an early stage in the process of identifying potential locations for offshore renewable projects. It's very important that the views of local communities are carefully considered, as we want to answer any questions and be open and accessible about how these plans are being progressed," he said.
Recent polling has indicated a high level of UK public support for offshore wind. However, there have also been signs that public opposition to the visual impacts of offshore projects can quickly emerge. Sea views from shore have become a focus of debate in relation to RWE’s proposed Atlantic Array offshore wind farm.
Biodiversity impacts are another potential obstacle for offshore wind developers. This summer, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) blocked Centrica’s plans to develop Docking Shoal, due to concerns about the cumulative impacts on a protected seabird species.