- The Project includes both the offshore and onshore infrastructure required to generate and transmit electricity from the Proposed Development Array Area to a Scottish Power Transmission (SPT) 400kV Grid Substation located at Branxton, southeast of Torness Power station. The Proposed Development Array Area is located in the outer Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay, 33.5 km east of the Scottish Borders coastline (St Abb’s Head) and 43 km to the East Lothian coastline from the nearest boundary and is the second project to be developed in the former Firth of Forth Zone (see Figure 1.1 Open ▸ ). SSER is also considering options for an additional offshore export cable corridor, which are under development. This export cable corridor does not form part of the Proposed Development for which this Scoping request has been made. However, it will be considered within the Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA) for the Offshore EIA Report (and the Onshore EIA Report) as appropriate, to ensure compliance with the requirements of the EIA Regulations.
- The initial Berwick Bank Wind Farm Proposal was one of two projects to be developed via Phase 2 of the former Firth of Forth Zone which included the initial Berwick Bank Wind Farm and Marr Bank Wind Farm. Marr Bank Wind Farm was to be located to the west of the initial Berwick Bank Wind Farm Proposal.
- In August 2020, SSER consulted on an Offshore EIA Scoping Report for the initial Berwick Bank Wind Farm project with a Scoping Opinion received from the Scottish Minsters in March 2021. The Offshore EIA Scoping Report provided information for the initial Berwick Bank Wind Farm Proposal, which was to be located approximately 39.2 km east of the East Lothian and the Scottish Borders coastline from the nearest boundary with an Proposed Development Array Area of approximately 775 km2.
- Subsequently, SSER undertook a detailed review of both the initial Berwick Bank Wind Farm and Marr Bank Wind Farm site environmental constraints and SSER has adjusted the consenting approach for the two proposals. SSER is now seeking consent for one Wind Farm Project: Berwick Bank Wind Farm (hereafter referred to as the Project). The offshore components of the Project are hereafter referred to as the Proposed Development. The boundaries of the Proposed Development now encompass a large proportion of the Agreement for Lease (AfL) area of Berwick Bank Wind Farm and a large proportion of the Marr Bank AfL area plus one of two proposed offshore cable corridors. This revised Offshore EIA Scoping Report has been developed for the Proposed Development and considers the new Proposed Development boundaries and updated Project Design Envelope.
- SSER proposes the development of the Proposed Development in the outer Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay, 33.5 km east of the East Lothian and the Scottish Borders coastline. The export cable will landfall on the East Lothian coast, at Thorntonloch or at Skateraw. From here, the export cables will connect to a SPT 400kV Grid Substation located at Branxton, southeast of Torness Power station.
- SSER will submit separate consents, licences and permissions for the offshore (seaward of Mean High Water Springs (MHWS) and onshore (landward of Mean Low Water Springs (MLWS)) infrastructure. This Offshore EIA Scoping Report considers all of the offshore infrastructure of the Project, seaward of MHWS.
- Consents, licences and permissions to be sought by SSER for the Proposed Development include:
- a Section 36 consent under the Electricity Act 1989;
- a marine licence under the Marine and Coastal Access Act (MCAA) 2009; and
a marine licence under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 for the part of the export cable which is within 12 nm of the coast.
- A separate Onshore EIA Scoping report relating to impacts of onshore infrastructure on onshore receptors has previously been developed and submitted to support the onshore Proposed Development consent Application (Berwick Bank Wind Limited, 2020). Likewise, a separate Onshore EIA Report will be developed which assesses all impacts from infrastructure landwards of MLWS. SSE will apply for planning permission under the T&CP Act for all Project infrastructure in Scotland located landward of MLWS. As noted above, SSER is also considering an additional offshore ECC, which is under development. This ECC does not form part of the Proposed Development for which this Scoping request has been made or for which the Onshore EIA Scoping relates.
- Consents and licences required for some pre-construction site investigation surveys and activities have been included within this Offshore EIA Scoping Report. These are:
- removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO);
- pre-construction geophysical survey; and
pre-construction geotechnical survey.
- An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report is required to be prepared and submitted to support applications for necessary offshore consents, licences and permissions (see section 1.5 Open ▸ and Appendix 5 Open for further detail) for the Proposed Development (including those pre-construction activities listed under paragraph 19 above. The EIA is required to fulfil the requirements of the following regulations:
- in respect to a Section 36 consent application: The Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017;
- in respect to a marine licence application: The Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 and the Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007; and
planning permission under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 for all Project infrastructure located landward of MLWS.
- Hereafter, these regulations have collectively been referred to as the EIA Regulations.
- The Offshore EIA Report (Offshore EIAR) will detail, and will be informed by, stakeholder consultation on this Offshore EIA Scoping Report. Details of the proposed approach to Stakeholder Consultation is outlined in section 4.3.4. The Offshore EIAR will be submitted to Scottish Ministers in 2022.
- SSER is seeking a 35-year consent period to allow the Proposed Development to continue operating should the lifespan of the wind turbines allow. If, in the future, SSER sought to repower the wind farm then they would do so through the submission of a separate application to cover any proposed new development.
1.2. Project Overview
1.2.1. Firth of Forth Zone
- The Round 3 offshore wind development programme was instigated by The Crown Estate (TCE) in 2008. Suitable areas for the development of offshore wind were assessed through a statutory process of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) undertaken by Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), now Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). As part of a competitive tender, Seagreen Wind Energy Limited (SWEL) was awarded the exclusive rights to the development of the Firth of Forth Zone by TCE in 2010. The subsequent Zone Development Agreement (ZDA) between Seagreen Wind Energy Ltd and TCE provides the potential for the development of several offshore wind farms. Subsequently in 2019, the Firth of Forth ZDA was terminated, with Agreement for Leases (AfLs) now agreed with Crown Estate Scotland (CES) for Seagreen (consisting of Seagreen Alpha and Seagreen Bravo), the initial Berwick Bank Wind Farm Proposal and the Marr Bank Wind Farm AfL boundary.
- Further detail on the Firth of Forth Zone is presented within section 3.2.1.
1.2.2. Phase 1
- Phase 1 within the former Firth of Forth Zone included the development of two offshore wind farms: Seagreen Alpha and Seagreen Bravo (hereafter collectively referred to as Seagreen Alpha/Bravo ), located around 27 km from the Angus coastline (Figure 1.1 Open ▸ ), which have the potential combined capacity of up to 1,500 MWs. The export cable for Seagreen Alpha/Bravo will make landfall at Carnoustie and connects to a substation at Tealing.
- Offshore consent for Seagreen Alpha/Bravo was received in October 2014 from Scottish Ministers and was confirmed in November 2017 following a legal challenge by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). A 15-year Contract for Difference (CfD) was awarded in September 2019 for 42% of the total project capacity (454 MW) and Seagreen Alpha/Bravo reached financial close in June 2020.
- Pre-campaign surveys of the Seagreen offshore site took place from March to September 2021 and seabed preparation activities commenced in August 2021. Construction works at the export cable landfall commenced in May 2021 and construction at the offshore wind farm site commenced in September 2021. Construction will occur in two stages. Stage 1 will cover installation of up to 114 wind turbines on suction bucket caisson foundations and installation of the first offshore substation platform (OSP), and Stage 2 will cover installation of up to 36 wind turbines and installation of the second OSP.
1.2.3. Phase 2
- Phase 2 of the former Firth of Forth Zone included the initial Berwick Bank Wind Farm Proposal and the Marr Bank Wind Farm AfL boundary. The initial Berwick Bank Wind Farm Proposal was previously named ‘Seagreen 2’ and Marr Bank Wind Farm Proposal was previously named ‘Seagreen 3’.
1.2.4. Berwick Bank Revised Boundary
- Revised Berwick Bank Wind Farm boundaries were established through consideration of environmental constraints including ornithological, shipping and navigation, commercial fisheries, marine mammal and benthic ecology constraint analysis and modelling. Further details on the site selection and consideration of alternatives to the Proposed Development are provided in section 3 Open ▸ .
- A detailed project description for the Proposed Development is presented in section 2 Open ▸ , and the following section provides a brief overview of the main aspects of the Proposed Development.
- Key components of the Proposed Development include:
- wind turbines;
- wind turbine foundations;
- inter-turbine array cables;
- interconnection cables;
- offshore substation(s) platform(s); and
- offshore export cable(s).
- The Proposed Development Array Area (i.e. the area in which the wind turbines will be located) is approximately 1,314 km2 and is located approximately 33.5 km east of the East Lothian and the Scottish Borders coastline from the nearest boundary (Figure 1.1 Open ▸ ). The Proposed Development Array Area is situated to the east of the large-scale morphological banks ‘Marr Bank’ and overlapping the ‘Berwick Bank’ in the south (Figure 1.2 Open ▸ ).
- A maximum of 307 wind turbines will be installed in the Proposed Development Array Area, with either suction caisson jacket or piled jacket foundations proposed for the wind turbine foundations. There will be up to ten OSPs installed with piled jackets for the platform foundations. The wind turbines will connect to each other and to the OSP(s) via subsea inter-array cables, and the OSP(s) will be connected to other OSP(s) via interconnector cables.
- Up to twelve offshore export cables will connect the OSP(s) to landfall at one selected landfall location on the East Lothian. Two are being considered, one at Thorntonloch (hereafter referred to as ‘Thorntonloch Landfall’) and one at Skateraw Harbour (hereafter referred to as the ‘Skateraw Landfall’)’. Once the cables make landfall, they will connect to the grid connection point at a new 400 kV Branxton substation, southwest of Torness Power station under an existing grid connection agreement. SSER is also considering an additional offshore ECC, which is under development. This ECC does not form part of the Proposed Development for which this Scoping request has been made or for which the Onshore EIA Scoping relates.
- The decommissioning process is likely to follow a similar programme to construction, in a reverse manner. SSER has a 50-year AfL with Crown Estate Scotland and therefore, SSER is seeking a 35-year consent period to allow the wind farm to continue operating should the lifespan of the wind turbines allow.
- This Offshore EIA Scoping Report has been prepared in order to support a request for a formal Scoping Opinion in relation to the Proposed Development from Scottish Ministers. It is anticipated that the Scoping Opinion will be based on responses to this Offshore EIA Scoping Report from key statutory and non-statutory consultees, which will help guide SSER in progressing the Offshore EIAR.
- The purpose of this Offshore EIA Scoping Report is to provide stakeholders with information on the Proposed Development and allow for engagement with stakeholders on the key topics to be addressed in the Offshore EIAR, as well as the baseline data sources and assessment methodologies to be used to inform the Offshore EIAR. Table 1.1 Open ▸ summarises the information requirements set out in the EIA Regulations and where these can be found in this Offshore EIA Scoping Report.
- Within this Offshore EIA Scoping Report, a number of potential environmental impacts are considered. These include impacts which are proposed to be scoped out of the EIA Report due to no likely significant effect (in EIA terms) or no effect-receptor pathways identified. Agreement with key stakeholders will be sought to determine final impacts to be scoped in and scoped out of the Offshore EIAR (see section 4.3.4).
- SSER welcomes the opportunity for engagement with stakeholders and feedback on the Proposed Development and the scope (proposed content) of the Offshore EIAR.
- This section sets out the approach to scoping that has been taken in the preparation of this Offshore EIA Scoping Report with the aim of achieving the following objectives:
- providing an overview of the baseline environment and the data collection that will be implemented and survey methodologies that have been implemented to inform the EIA baseline characterisation for each technical assessment;
- proposing impacts to be scoped out of the Proposed Development EIA where there is clear justification for doing so; and
proposing impacts to scope into the Proposed Development EIA, draw upon the existing evidence base where appropriate.
- This approach will allow the Offshore EIAR to focus on those potential impacts which either have the potential to lead to a significant effect, or where significant uncertainty exists on potential effect, thereby supporting the development of a proportionate Offshore EIAR.
- Each of the topic specific sections of this Offshore EIA Scoping Report provides:
- an overview of the survey area and baseline characterisation;
- identifies potential routes to impact in the absence of designed in measures;
- a list of identified designed in measures;
- impacts to be scoped in and scoped out the Proposed Development EIA following consideration of designed in measures;
- an overview of the proposed approach to the EIA;
- identifies potential cumulative effects;
- presents a screening assessment of potential transboundary impacts;
- sets out questions to the stakeholders associated with each technical section; and
provides a summary of suggested topic-specific next steps.
- Further information on the approach to the Offshore EIA Scoping Report is set out in section 4 Open ▸ .
- This Offshore EIA Scoping Report and the subsequent Offshore EIAR relate to those impacts and receptors associated with the offshore environment, including potential impacts of offshore infrastructure on onshore and offshore receptors. A separate Onshore EIA Scoping report relating to impacts of onshore infrastructure on onshore receptors has previously been developed and submitted to support the onshore Proposed Development consent Application (Berwick Bank Wind Limited, 2020). Likewise, a separate Onshore EIA Report will be developed which assesses all impacts from infrastructure landwards of MLWS.
- There is an overlap of jurisdiction in the intertidal area between MHWS and MLWS of the offshore and onshore consenting and regulatory regimes. Therefore, both EIA Reports will include the relevant technical assessments of the intertidal area (between MHWS and MLWS) (as shown in Figure 1.3 Open ▸ ).
- The structure of this Offshore EIA Scoping Report is set out in Table 1.2 Open ▸ . It should be noted that consideration of human health in the Offshore EIA Scoping Report is given in the airborne noise and air quality sections (section 5.3 Open ▸ and section 5.4 Open ▸ ).
- Water quality is assessed through topic specific assessments including consideration of INNS settlement and distribution, risk from operational cleaning and paints and accidental release of lubricants or chemicals.
- Within the Offshore EIA Report, individual topic sections will contain an assessment of the potential effects arising from major accidental scenarios and disaster, and the associated control measures which will be employed to address these.
1.4.1. SSE Renewables
- SSER is a leading developer, owner and operator of renewable energy across the UK and Ireland, with a portfolio of around 4 GW of onshore wind, offshore wind and hydro.
- SSE Renewables owns nearly 2 GW of operational onshore wind capacity with over 1 GW under development. Its operational offshore wind portfolio consists of 580 MW across three offshore sites, two of which it operates on behalf of its joint venture partners. SSE Renewables has the largest offshore wind development pipeline in the UK and Ireland at over 6 GW.
1.4.2. The Project EIA Team
- RPS has been instructed by SSER to lead the offshore EIA for the Proposed Development and ITPEnergised Group (ITPE) to lead the onshore EIA. This includes the initial review of the key environmental issues associated with the construction, operation and maintenance, and decommissioning of the Project as part of the Offshore and Onshore EIA Scoping Reports respectively.
- An overview of the policy and legislation of relevance to the Proposed Development is provided here, with a detailed review presented within Appendix 4 Open .
1.5.2. Need for the Development
- The UK is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol which commits state parties to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets. The protocol came into effect in 2005 and its commitments were transposed into UK law by the Climate Change Act 2008, which initially required the net UK greenhouse gas emissions for the year 2050 to be 80% lower than the 1990 baseline. This was revised to a “net zero target” of greenhouse gas emissions for the year 2050 to be 100% lower than the 1990 levels by The Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019. In Scotland, the net zero target must be delivered by 2045 (the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009).
- In December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal at the Paris climate conference (COP21). The Paris Agreement (2016) sets out a global action plan towards climate neutrality with the aims of stopping the increase in global average temperature to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
UK and Scotland Climate Change and Energy Legislation
- As well as international legislation, the UK and Scotland are committed to various other targets within legislation including those listed below (further detail presented within Appendix 4 Open ):
- 2020 “20-20-20” targets;
- 2030 Targets including European Union Renewables Energy Directive;
- 2050 Low Carbon Economy;
- The Climate Change Act 2008;
- The Energy Act 2013;
- The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009; and
- The Scottish Energy Strategy.
1.5.3. Planning Legislation
- The Proposed Development requires the following consents, licences and permissions:
- a Section 36 consent under the Electricity Act 1989;
- a marine licence under the MCAA 2009; and
a marine licence under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 for the part of the export cable which is within 12 nm of the coast.
- Should additional pre-construction licences be required, these will be discussed and agreed with the relevant consenting authority during the pre-construction phase of the Proposed Development.
Section 36 Consent
- The Proposed Development is an offshore generating station with a capacity of greater than 50 MW which is located in Scottish Offshore Waters (between 12 nm and up to 200 nm offshore) within the Scottish Renewable Energy Zone (REZ). Therefore, there is a requirement for consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989. Section 36 consent will allow for the construction and operation of wind turbines and inter-array cables forming part of the Proposed Development.
- Within the UK offshore waters (between 12 nm and up to 200 nm offshore), REZ, the MCAA 2009 applies. Under the MCAA 2009 (as amended) there is the requirement for a marine licence to be obtained prior to the construction, alteration or improvement of any works or deposit any object in or over the sea, or on or under the seabed. Similarly, under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 which applies to Scottish Territorial Waters (between 0 and 12 nm from MHWS) there is also the requirement for a marine licence prior to the construction, alteration or improvement of any works or deposit any object in or over the sea, or on or under the seabed.
- Where applications for both a marine licence under the MCAA 2009 and consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 are made and where the Scottish Ministers are the determining authority, they may issue a note to the applicant stating that both applications will be subject to the same administrative procedure. Where that is the case then that will ensure that the two related applications may be considered at the same time.
1.5.4. Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations
- The EIA Directive (2011/92/EU, as amended by Directive 2014/52/EU) has traditionally directed the assessment of effects on certain public and private project on the environment in Scotland. Following the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, Scotland has no direct obligations under this Directive. However, through The Marine Environment (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 which came into force on Exit day (31 January 2020) the requirements established under the Directive (as transposed into UK law) continue to apply, subject to only minor changes. As such, the Directive has continued relevance to any application in Scottish waters for a Section 36 consent, a marine licence or planning permission and continues to set the framework for the EIA process in Scotland.
- The EIA Directive was implemented into Scottish law through various statutory instruments:
- in respect to a Section 36 consent application: The Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017; and
- in respect to a marine licence application: The Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 and the Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007.
The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 for all Project infrastructure located landward of MLWS.
- In compliance with these Regulations, when applying for Section 36 consent or a marine licence, an EIA Report is required to be prepared and submitted to support these applications if the development applied for is likely to have a significant effect on the environment due to factors such as its size nature or location. An EIA is specifically required (Schedule 2) for installations for the harnessing of wind power for energy production (wind farms) if:
- the development involves the installation of more than two wind turbines; or
the hub height of any wind turbine or height of any other structure exceeds 15 m.
- The Proposed Development will consist of more than two wind turbines, with a hub height over 15 m, and therefore requires an EIA to be undertaken.
- Where activity is planned within the Scottish Territorial Waters, the Marine Licensing (Pre-application Consultation) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 (hereafter referred to as the PAC Regulations) apply. Public consultation will be carried out for the onshore and offshore elements of the Project at the same events to give third parties a full understanding of the proposals. A PAC report will be submitted alongside the marine licence application.
1.5.5. The Habitats Directive, Bird Directive and Associated Regulations
- The Council Directive 92/43/EEC (the Habitats Directive) was adopted in 1992 and provided a means for the EU to meet its obligations under the Bern Convention. The aim of the Directive is to maintain or restore natural habitats and wild species listed on the Annexes at a favourable conservation status. This protection was granted through the designation of European Sites (Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and measures to protect European Protected Species (EPS). European Directive (2009/147/EC) on the conservation of wild birds (The Birds Directive) affords rare and vulnerable species listed under Annex I of the Directive, and regularly occurring migratory species, protection through the identification and designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Following the UK’s Exit from the EU, the UK has no direct obligations under the Habitats Directive. However, The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 (effective from 1 January 2021) ensure that Scotland is legally obliged to continue to maintain the standards required by the EU Habitats and Wild Birds Directives, subject to only minor (non-material) changes. As such, the Habitats and Birds Directive continue to provide the framework for the conservation and management of rare and vulnerable habitats and species and wild birds within Europe and the UK.
- The Directives were traditionally transposed into Scottish Law by various regulations, those of relevance to the Proposed Development include:
- the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended);
- the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017; and
the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (which apply to marine licences and Section 36 applications within the Scottish Offshore region).
- These are hereafter referred to as the Habitats Regulations 2017 (as amended) to reflect the amendments effected by The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations.
- The Habitat Regulations 2017 (as amended) require that where a plan or project is likely to have a significant effect on a designated site, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects, it shall be subject to appropriate assessment of its implications for the site in view of the site’s conservation objectives. Marine Scotland must therefore consider whether the Proposed Development is likely to have significant effects on the conservation objectives of the sites considered in the Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA), and, where LSE cannot be excluded at the screening stage, and in the absence of mitigation measures, an ‘Appropriate Assessment’ of the implication of the plan or project must be undertaken by the competent authority before consent may be given for the proposed project.
- Further details of the HRA process are presented in Appendix 4 Open .
1.5.6. European Protected Species (Eps) Licensing
- EPS are animals and plants (species listed in Annex IV of the Habitats Directive) that are afforded protection under The Habitats Regulations 2017 (as amended). All cetacean species (whales, dolphins and porpoise) are EPSs. If any activity is likely to cause disturbance or injury to an EPS a licence is required to undertake the activity legally.
- Activities which can be licenced under EPS licences include those such as subsea noise disturbance to marine mammals due to piling construction activities. EPS licences are obtained from NatureScot or the Scottish Ministers, depending on the species subject to the licence application. Although the grant of EPS licences is separate to the Section 36 and marine licence application process, it can be considered in parallel by Marine Scotland.
- Sections 105 to 114 of the Energy Act 2004 (as amended by the Energy Act 2008 and the Scotland Act 2016) (hereafter referred to as the Energy Act) contain statutory requirements in relation to the decommissioning of offshore renewable energy installations (OREI) and their related electricity lines. Under the terms of the Energy Act, Scottish Ministers may require a person who is responsible for these installations or lines in Scottish Waters or in a Scottish part of a REZ to prepare (and carry out) a costed decommissioning programme for submission to and approval by Scottish Ministers (Marine Scotland, 2020).
- The scope of decommissioning requirements in Scotland is between the MLWS mark and the seaward limits of the territorial waters, including coastal water and the Scottish part of the REZ. The Energy Act does not cover the intertidal zone, however decommissioning of infrastructure within the intertidal zone should be carried out under any conditions attached to a Marine Licence (under the Marine Scotland Act 2010).
- Further detail on decommissioning is presented within Appendix 4 Open .