Over the last decade, the marine renewables industry has been subject to significant research and development investment, driven by increasing concerns over climate change and energy security. The Scottish Government has set a target of 30% of total energy demand being met by renewable sources by 2020, to be achieved by renewables satisfying 100% of electricity demand (31% by 2011), and 11% of heat demand (Scottish Government, 2011). It is anticipated that marine renewable energy sources (tidal and wave power) will play an important role in reaching these objectives. Whilst the development of a marine renewables industry is generally looked upon favourably, consideration must be given to potential environmental and social impacts, as well as conflicts with other users.
The Shetland Islands have been identified as having potential for both tidal and wave powered developments (Scottish Government, 2007; Natural Power, 2011). Figure 1 illustrates the tidal resource around Shetland, and Figure 2 illustrates the wave resource. The development of a large scale renewable industry in Shetland is currently limited by the absence of an interconnector to the UK national grid. However, it is anticipated that an interconnector will be in place by 2016/2017, and there is increasing interest in the development of the renewables industry in Shetland. Within Shetland, developers must gain both a Works Licence, issued by the Shetland Islands Council, and a Marine Licence, issued by Marine Scotland. One exploratory Works Licence has been granted by the Shetland Islands Council for a wave energy device, and a Works Licence and Marine Licence have been granted for a small scale, community owned tidal energy device.
It is anticipated that the number of licence applications for renewable devices around Shetland will increase in the future. To help guide the placement of renewable energy developments and associated cable landings, ArcGIS® has been used to map and integrate spatial data on resource opportunities and development constraints. This assessment incorporates environmental, social and economic considerations into the site selection process for marine renewable energy.
This guidance will form part of the ‘The Marine Spatial Plan for the Shetland Islands’ which has guided the siting of marine developments in Shetland since 2008 (NAFC, 2012). The Shetland Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) contains spatial data on the marine and coastal environment and its uses, in addition to establishing an overarching policy framework. The spatial extent of the plan includes all territorial waters seaward of mean high water springs, out to 12 nautical miles, but also includes onshore habitats / ecological processes that are clearly affected by marine developments, such as cable landing sites.