The Crown Estates assets in Scotland have now been transferred to the Scottish Ministers and Crown Estate Scotland (CES) is in the process of being set up. One of the key objectives of the Scottish Ministers has been to take control of the leasing of Scotland's offshore waters for offshore wind projects and CES has now published plans for consultation in a discussion document called New Offshore Wind Leasing for Scotland.
The focus of the consultation is how about best to offer seabed leases to the industry in order to maximise the development of offshore wind projects in Scotland's waters. In particular, the consultation recognises that the process should facilitate floating offshore wind as well as fixed offshore wind - important as Scotland is currently home to the largest floating offshore wind farm in the world, the 30MW Hywind windfarm developed by Equinor. The consultation proposes that site tenders are held on a regular scheduled basis with successful bidders being awarded 10 year options to develop a defined area of seabed. The consultation seeks views on both the proposed tender process and the terms of the proposed options and leases. We wrote an article on the consultation, first published on LexisPSLEnergy, describing the legal backdrop to the consultation, a copy of which attached to this blog.
One interesting feature of the consultation is the proposal to allow developers to define the seabed they wish to bid for, rather than for CES to define the seabed and ask for tenders to the seabed areas it has defined. This more flexible approach is designed in part to facilitate technology neutral tenders as fixed and floating offshore developers require different seabed and water depth characteristics. Site selection by developers will be constrained by the areas which Marine Scotland will permit as suitable for development, and Marine Scotland issued its consultation - Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy- on proposed areas of search shortly after CES launched its consultation. A quick comparison at the proposed areas of search and the areas included in the Crown Estate's Round 3 tender shows the level of ambition, with sites in the Atlantic and close to the Northern Isles proposed, as well as in the more accessible North Sea. You can read a blog by my colleague Kirsty Macpherson on this consultation here.
Although launched later consultation responses to the Sectoral Marine Plan are due by 18 July while responses to CES's consultation are due by 31 August. The timeline is short and therefore the priority is for the industry to respond to Marine Scotland's consultation first and then focus on the CES consultation. We are planning our own response to the CES consultation, in particular to the proposals on the terms of the option and leasing arrangements. We aim to engage with developers over the summer to help frame our response.