In December 2007, the government announced a third round of offshore wind farm development as a key component of delivering 15% of the UK’s energy (electricity, heat and transport fuel) from renewable sources by 2020. On 4 June 2008, The Crown Estate (CE) first released their suggestions for potential Round 3 (R3) development zones, updated in September 2008 (Figure 1) pre-empting the outcome of the SEA process. CE ‘s intention was to accelerate the planning process by pre-qualifying interested developers and sharing the costs – and hence risks - of application, in readiness to move forward once the SEA consultation had taken place and the resulting government decision had been announced. A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was published in January 2009 (DECC 2009). The UK government’s Renewable Energy Strategy was released on 17th July 2009. CE is now required to carry out an Appropriate Assessment of its R3 plan for offshore wind development. In addition to the proposed R3 zones, expansion of R1 & R2 sites is envisaged (“R2.5”, CE 29 July 2009) (Figure 1), together with applications for test sites which, in theory, may be anywhere around the UK coast, but will not exceed 100MW per installation (CE September 2009).
In a parallel process, CE invited bids for offshore wind development in Scottish Territorial Waters (STW), and has now identified areas in which exclusivity agreements apply (Figure 1). An SEA for STW, was initiated in 2009 under the auspices of the Scottish Government.
This document focuses on seabirds and waterbirds in UK continental shelf waters, their coastal breeding colonies and non-breeding coastal and marine distributions. The purpose of this document is to identify those bird species which are most likely to be priorities for data collation and collection as part of the planned further development of offshore wind energy, and subsequent Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for individual projects, especially in the areas mapped by CE as potential development R3 zones, R1 & R2 areas, and STW (Figure 1). The document also identifies knowledge gaps. This information will help to: inform the RSPB’s responses to future wind farm proposals; encourage a consistent approach in dealing with offshore wind energy casework; provide advice to government, statutory agencies, CE and industry on monitoring and research requirements; and, hopefully, expedite the process by facilitating the targeting of effort where it is needed most.
Acknowledgement: This article was identified by the Crown Estate Wave and Tidal Knowledge Network.