Marine renewable energy is an important component not just for Scottish Government’s vision for the future, but for other North Sea countries to support governments reaching decarbonisation and climate change objectives.
In 2016, North Sea countries signed a Political Declaration on energy cooperation as a follow-up of the Paris Climate Agreement, and are now in the process of preparing Maritime Spatial Plans (MSPs), including offshore wind farms. It is known that the construction and operation of large-scale wind farms will affect the marine environment and other users of the North Sea. In order to understand cross-border cumulative effects of large scale wind farms. To facilitate a more transparent, coherent evaluation system that can be applied across the entire North Sea, the SEANSE project (Strategic Environmental Assessment North Sea Energy) was carried out between 2018 - 2020. Project partners include planning authorities in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Scotland and Denmark.
As part of the SEANSE project, Marine Scotland commissioned a case study to develop a strategic assessment framework to estimate potential impacts on seabirds that may result from offshore wind development scenarios that can be applied for regional planning purposes. The project then tested implementation of the framework by undertaking a demonstration strategic assessment in the Forth and Tay region of Scottish waters for five key seabird species. This strategic assessment:
- Provided a baseline of seabird populations and habitat use in the area, utilising best available seabird data products and tools.
- Applied the new framework to three different strategic scenarios of increasing offshore wind development.
- Examined how different datasets and assessment methods, with different assumptions, affected the combined impact assessment and population projections.
- Provided guidance on how the framework could also be applied in other regions, particularly where less local data are available.