Marine Scotland identifies 15 new Scottish sea areas for offshore wind

Marine Scotland wind research map

To accompany Energy Minister Fergus Ewing’s delivery of the keynote speech at the opening day of the European Wind Energy Association offshore wind conference in Amsterdam, Marine Energy Science launched its new research report for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish waters. This is the first stage in the process to identify potential new areas for offshore wind energy.

The conference attracts more than 7,500 participants and over 480 exhibitors. The areas identified and the new research announced to develop offshore wind are designed to be attractive to inward investment.

However, the announcement at an extraterritorial conference of 15 new areas identified in Scottish waters for offshore windfarms – albeit aka research – is likely to cause alarm at home, faced with this information in what can only feel like a fait accompli.

The new areas could support a further 10 Gigawatts of development and are additional to the plans already in place for 10 Gigawatts of offshore wind around Scotland.

The report will now be followed by more detailed Regional Locational Guidance to provide industry, including those in the supply chain, with the best knowledge to locate their activities in Scotland.

Mr Ewing also announced a new £5 million offshore renewables R & D programme, using European Regional Development Funds, to be taken forward by Scottish Enterprise.

The programme will help minimise costs and risks in the offshore environment by supporting research and development, prototype development, innovation and commercialisation activities involving small and medium sized enterprises.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: ‘The Scottish Government is working with public and private sector partners to support green energy developments and the reindustrialisation of Scotland’s communities.’

The trouble with this sort of statement is that two forms of development mentioned above are not necessarily consequentially related. In many cases the only ‘reindustrialisation of Scotland’s communities’ from offshore wind farms may be that they will  be living in a more visibly industrial physical context.

The areas identified by Marine Scotland are mostly the shallow waters close inshore, which are suitable for existing technologies, meaning cheaper to install. While there is nothing wrong with ‘cheaper’ per se, the environmental cost of littering the coastline with inshore wind farms in technologies which will soon be obsolescent would seem to be at a discount.

The government’s press release says that: ‘… there are (also) deepwater areas which could used for emerging offshore technologies such as floating technology; and that: ‘We will now produce a revised plan in 2013 to better understand the waters around Scotland and provide developers with the confidence to move to the next stage of project development in Scottish waters.’

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing told the conference – in a script so familiar it is now beyond cliche and with some of it clearly over-inflated: ‘With an estimated 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resource, Scotland is the place to come and do business and reap the massive benefits of new offshore wind development and deployment.

‘We have demonstrated our commitment with an ambitious but achievable target of the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs coming from renewables by 2020. By positioning Scotland as a world leader in low carbon activities, we are witnessing new investment and new jobs. Offshore wind could support almost 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in Scotland by 2020, generating over seven billion pounds for our economy, while there is already 300 million pounds being invested in Scotland to develop the next generation offshore wind turbines. But we want to go further and secure more – much more – international investment on Scotland’s shores and I look forward to working with you all right across Europe.’

Initial responses

We understand from the well informed Kintyre Offshore Wind Action Group (KOWAG) that: ‘…this scoping report is the outcome of a spatial analysis tool which modelled “constraints”. The impact on people was ironically not one of the constraints considered… unless they are dead and buried in shipwrecks at sea, in which case they become an archaeological constraint. Presumably the people-factor comes in when they do the regional locational guidance’. This will be the deskbound equivalent of ‘ light blue touch paper and retire.

When you look at the Marine Scotland research report: Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Waters the picture is close to unhinged. (The map above is on Page 2 of the Executive Summary.)

The entrance to the outer Firth of Clyde would be almost closed off by wind farms, both right inshore in Ayrshire and south Kintyre – and entrance to Campbeltown Loch would be what? A slalom?

Then there is an entire continuous swathe stretching from the north of Islay away to the northwest, blanketing Tiree and Barra. As the Trekkies sing: ‘It’s life Jim, but not as we know it’.

The entire west coast of Scotland, one of the world’s renowned sailing grounds – would be unrecognisable and, for sail, effectively unnavigable. Has anyone calibrated the impact of wind turbines on passing sail boats?

The country is almost completely ringed with areas for inshore and offshore wind farms – to the point where what is happening is painfully clear.

These plans are being created by city-based bureaucrats who have lost sight of the fact  that what they are looking at is more than a set of potential resources. It is a country and a country with a very specific identity upon which unique lifestyles, cultures and the major industry of tourism depend.

A plan as brutalist as this, even for ‘research’ purposes, has forgotten the larger realities altogether. This is no more than a computer game, or a version of ‘Risk’, which used to be Bill Gates’ favourite  – but we are not talking about a game – or are we? – but a country.

The west coast – a major feature and a unique selling point for Scotland – and every aspect of life on and experience of the west coast and its islands, will be irrevocably changed by this Frankenstein deskbound madness.


It’s impact is profoundly dangerous because it immediately drives on to consider the neat footprint and the energy grunt of nuclear power.

As rational environmentalists – we are instinctively, viscerally and knowingly opposed to nuclear generation, because of its ultimate uncontrollability and the toxic legacy it leaves for an unknown sequence of generations to come.

But in the end, faced with so destructive an alternative, reason is not reason if it is  not prepared to reconsider options in changed circumstances.

We had been driven in this direction before – by the out of scale plan for the Argyll Array windfarm off – and virtually on – Tiree, which is five times the size of the entire island.

Fukushima and what was virtually its reactor farm sent us careering back to wondering how much of a presence of offshore wind – which is inefficient and will be an obsolete technology in the mid term – might be acceptable.

This map of areas for ‘research’ into offshore wind generation produces the recoil of a rape.

And, conflicted on the relative cost of wind power as a knowledgeable reader accused us of being-  and which we admit – we are again open to the possibility of nuclear power.

If the Westminster government offered to power the UK from a reactor farm in, say, Suffolk, how many Scots might find the union ‘worth a mass’?

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23 Responses to Marine Scotland identifies 15 new Scottish sea areas for offshore wind

  1. Sorry, but I have to say it.

    I can identify one. Any meeting of the ConDemAlls at Kilmory, or Inverary, or wherever else they can find a nice bar lunch.

    Plenty wind there.

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  2. Presumably the development areas on the map are ‘areas of search’ rather than areas considered ripe for completely stuffing with windfarms. I doubt even Ian Banks would have conjured up the latter option for one of his novels, and it would only be credible if the Crown Estate / Marine Scotland have decided that shipping in the Forth, the Cromarty Firth, and through the Minch is to be forbidden (by Royal decree?) and shipping between Europe and North America via the Pentland Firth can just jolly well detour further north of Cape Wrath – and traffic between Aberdeen and just about everywhere can also do a nice detour. The stone exports from Glensanda will no longer have the south option to the Irish Sea, and will all go up through the Minch and out north beyond the Butt of Lewis before turning east for the Pentland Firth or west outside the Hebrides. Traffic through the North Channel between Scotland and Ireland will be confined close to the welcome embrace of Rathlin Island – unless the Ulster equivalent of the Crown Estate / Marine Scotland produces a similar map, in which case the North Channel will be closed to shipping and everyone can jolly well go somewhere else. And the new marine wind farmers will harvest a rich reward – particularly when the wind’s blowing everywhere and they’re paid not to generate too much electricity – unless, of course, we dam each end of the central belt and turn it into a pumped storage reservoir.

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  3. The other worrying thing about this development is that once again the develoment of offshore wind is being progressed entirely without reference to onshore wind developments. Consider the folk of the south of the Mull of Kintyre, already fighting a developers appeal against the rejection of their development at Kilchatten, with Scottish Power hovering in the wings with their Slate Windfarm plan south of Machrihanish and now a vast area from horizon to horizon filled with the expanded W4 offshore proposals. They will be utterly encircled because nobody at the centre is looking at the whole picture….until 30years down the line when Panorama is doing an expose on the blighted communities of West and NW Scotland….

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  4. Pingback: A Moratorium on Industrial Wind farms is called for at Holyrood Debate | Communities Against Turbines Scotland

  5. Robert is quite right that the areas shown on the map are indicative only showing areas for “research” and NOT areas which will inevitably have windfarms. Indeed, this map should not have come as quite such a surprise to Newsroom, with their highly emotive and ridiculously OTT language “the recoil of a rape”, as this looks like a redraw of a map published last March by Offshore Wind Scotland, a consortium of HIE, SE and the Scottish Goverment:
    The new map enlarges some of the areas, especially in the Clyde, but the indication of joining Islay to Barra and blocking the north end of the Minch were on the earlier map.

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    • For Alex McKay – of course they’re indicative but, given the willingness to swamp Tiree as it is, with the Argyll Array, the identification of these areas as they are is an indication giving rise to entirely legitimate concern.

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  6. Newsroom. I don’t deny you legitimate concern, but you appear to have decided when writing your article to assume that all the areas indicated would end up completely covered in turbines, which a reading of the whole report instead of a glance at just one of the maps it contains would have made clear, so in my view your language was unwarranted, e.g. “unhinged”, “brutalist”,”rape”, “effectively unnavigable”, Frankenstein deskbound madness”. Offshore wind developments are going to happen, and what this new report deserves is cogent argument and considered responses not an OTT reaction such as yours.

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  7. Pingback: » Report first stage in developing new offshore wind energy sites in Scotland’s … – John O’Groat Journal » Energized Energized

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  10. There is nothing substantively new in this report than was not in the post adoption report March 2011.

    Reminding the Renewables Industry at the EWEA conference in Amsterdam was hardly co-incidental, coming as it did in the week that the host nation’s government announced a slow down in off shore development, due to its cost, and the current international economic crisis.

    It’s a wake up call. The entire WC Scotland, one of the world’s s most stunning marine environments is up for grabs, and Scottish Government is the pimp (that is not an OTT reaction).

    The mantra of self-justification by Govt spokesmen ,is becoming increasingly vacuous, eg nonsense like ” reindustrialisation of Scotland’s communities” What is Lochhead talking about? If he only looks at his own windfarm development maps, he will understand that most of the impacted communities were never industrialised.

    In a similar vein Alex S recently alluded to that Kenneth McKELLAR favourite “The Song of the Clyde” and its line “…But from Glasgow to Greenock, in towns on each side,
    The hammers ding-dong is the song of the Clyde” .

    Wonderful, romantic, evocative stuff, but in the recently published(NOV 2011)“ Wind in our Sails- The coming of Europe’s offshore wind energy industry”( a report by the European Wind Energy Association), hammers ding-donging on the Clyde, let alone the WC of Scotland,does not get a mention!!

    This nonsense aside, what is lost in this debate, to the politicians delight,is the subsidy costs faced by Scottish Taxpayers to finance SNP policy whereby Scotland will generate 100% more than its electricity requirements. This extra production is for export to make Scotland the Saudi Arabia of renewables(SNP Manifesto).

    Where is the research to support this business plan? How is the export pricing mechanism going to work. No-Tiree-Array (NTA) has asked Alex Salmond this,and many other re related questions. NTA still awaits his reply.

    Go to

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  11. If anyone thinks that – in this context – the idea that ‘the Scottish government is the pimp’ is a bit OTT should consider Mr Salmond’s enthusiastic pursuit of Mr Trump up on the Aberdeen coast – although, to be fair, he was joined in the chase by local industrial and academic luminaries.

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  12. There is such understandable anger all over the country…and I don’t just mean Scotland.

    Initially it seemed like the answer to the future energy needs,but time has moved on and so has our knowledge.

    It appears that ordinary citizens are having to “defend” their communities from greedy companies out for a share of subsidies that WE pay for through energy bills. How is that fair.?

    There are also cases of smaller “wind farms” being proposed with the “loot” heading everywhere except the local area! for e.g. absentee landlords.

    I have absolutely no problem with either communities or small concerns siting turbines on their properties for THEIR benefit. However,benefit should be just that…NOT a burden to all.

    And while I’m on my high horse!…we really need to be told, truthfully, of the noise,flicker etc impacts on everyone in the vicinity of these industrial giants.

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  13. Can someone please explain me what the forecast for CONSUMER benefit is with all this green energy? There may be excellent job & business opportunities but energy prices are soaring and there’s never been so many turbines as we have now. I thought the whole idea was cheaper energy generated by FREE wind,waves & tides? Maybe that’s where my error lies, maybe the only point is to save other fuels like coal & oil???

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  14. Roddy – There’s also the bizarre arrangement of paying wind farmers not to generate too much electricity when the winds are blowing really well, and there’s a power surplus. I don’t know if this is a rare problem, or whether it really adds a lot to the costs, but it seems to be down to a failure to provide energy storage and distribution to match the reconfigured generating pattern. It’s like farmers being paid to grow more food and then paid to throw it away when there’s a glut because no-one thought to build cold stores to cope with it. I thought we’d got beyond that stage.

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    • Robert — I guess we can not store electricity very efficiently. I think the main rant seems to be that wind turbines are highly subsidized by the consumer, hence the rising lecky price. In other words, every and any party who decides to install a wind turbine actually scoops the business rewards from the consumer. The dosh is collected from consumer’s via pricing then passed to the operators via “schemes”. Schemes being the key word. There’s a gov e-petition on this:

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  18. So it is confirmed – ForArgyll has hitched its star firmly to the currently popular turbophobic bandwagon, joining a merry band of right-wing Tories, climate change deniers and such media luminaries as the Daily Wail and the Torygraph in their campaign to rid us of the ‘blight’.

    There are so many inaccuracies in this report that it is impossible to know where to start criticising it. For now I will content myself with commenting from a yachtsman’s perspective. Offshore windfarms do not make an area ‘unnavigable’ – yachtsmen are quite capable of navigating between the turbines.

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    • This sort of autopilot slagging off – of those of us who are genuinely and openly working to tease out the issues and to enable informed thinking BEFORE we take irreversible steps – is a waste of time and space.

      There are very serious issues here.

      A big one is that wind turbines are far from clean green enery – as you MUST know and do not care to discuss.

      The magnets for the turbines require rare earths in their production, These rare earths are highly toxic and the process by which they are separated from each other create large volumes of fluid toxic waste.

      We buy our magnets – as does most of Europe – from China, where Mongolia has large resources of rare earths. The consequences of this production are not then to be found in our back yard.

      But our economic activity in the field contributes strongly to condemning the villagers At Baotou in Mongolia to the consequences – with a lake of toxic waste open to the elements, highly dangerous to breathe and lethal to come into contact with.

      In this area, wildlife has vanished, the water course has been contaminated, cancers are rife and villages have been decimated by deaths, And these people have nowhere to go.

      There is nothing right wing about concern for this reality in every respect – if there were it would dignify the right wing; and there is eveything irresponsibly unthought about an unchallenged commitment to an energy harvesting process which, in truth, is neither clean nor green.

      We have published in some detail on this matter – which may now actually come to a place near you:

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  19. Newsroom,

    When one of your wild assertions is criticised (the use of the word ‘unnavigable’ in this intance) your reaction, rather than addressing the point raised, is to jump straight to another cherry-picked anti-wind objection, this time pollution from rare earth extraction in China.

    Before using rare earths as a stick to beat renewables with it is worth remembering that we are all guilty participants in this filthy industry. Neodymium magnets appear in products such as microphones, loudspeakers, in-ear headphones (ear buds and hearing aids), guitar pick-ups and the ubiquitous computer hard drives.

    There are cleaner sources of rare earths than China (indeed, we may well have deposits right here in Scotland) – but these are more expensive, and for consumers price wins out over the environment every time.

    As with everything in renewables, the situation is fast-moving and fluid. Siemens – major users of rare earths in their direct drive turbines – are looking away from China and are instead look to finance and develop new cleaner rare earth production sites across Australia, Russia, Greenland, and California. Vestas on the other hand are opposed to a move to direct-drive wind turbines largely because of its dependence on rare earths. Vestas claims that its geared generators contain a tenth of the quantity of rare earths found in direct-drive machines.

    Wind energy is remarkably clean compared to almost any other form of energy. However, cherry-picked factoids and emotionally charged phraseology have always commanded a premium over impartiality with the ‘popular’ media.

    The truth is that a growing number of people seem to be suffering from ‘wind turbine syndrome’, a strange psychological malaise where the very thought of looking at a wind turbine makes them feel ill.

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