Consents have been granted for the Green Volt offshore wind farm. These are a rare example of derogation from the Habitats Regulations.

Green Volt offshore wind farm

Green Volt is a floating offshore wind farm located approximately 80 kilometres off the coast of Aberdeenshire. It will have a generating capacity of up to 560 MW.

The project is part of the Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas (INTOG) leasing round. It proposes to provide electricity to the Buzzard oil and gas platform complex, with any excess electricity generated exported to the national grid.

Habitats Regulations Appraisal

A Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA) was undertaken for the project.

HRA is done by the decision-maker when deciding the application. It is therefore different from environmental impact assessment (EIA), which is carried out by the applicant, resulting in the submission of an environmental impact assessment report (EIAR) with the consent application.

The Habitats Regulations require separate consideration of the impact of plans and projects on European sites, principally Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA). The NatureScot website has a useful flowchart.

The key elements of HRA are:

  • Identifying likelihood of significant effect
  • Carrying out appropriate assessment (AA)
  • Derogation - if there is adverse effect on site integrity (AEOSI) of the European site:
    • Review of alternative solutions
    • Identifying imperative reasons of overriding public interest (IROPI)
    • Securing necessary compensatory measures


For the Green Volt project, the AA carried out by the Ministers concluded AEOSI for seabird species of kittiwake, gannet, puffin and guillemot at 5 SPAs - but in combination with other projects, not for the project itself. The 3 derogation tests therefore needed to be satisfied.

A key factor is the UK Government’s Overarching National Policy Statement for energy (EN-1), published in January 2024. EN-1 identifies nationally significant low carbon infrastructure, including offshore wind, as a critical national priority (CNP).

Alternative solutions – the Ministers concluded there are no alternative viable projects located within the INTOG area that could meet the identified project objectives, which include the decarbonisation of O&G infrastructure within the project’s operational timescales. The Ministers took into account the EN-1 policy that projects for CNP infrastructure deliverable in alternative locations are unlikely to be suitable alternatives.

IROPI – because none of the affected SPA features are priority species, this was restricted to economic and social benefits. The IROPI test is satisfied by contribution of the project to tackling the climate crisis. The Ministers also noted mitigation of the climate crisis will in turn alleviate the nature crisis.

Compensatory measures – given the relatively small magnitudes of effects at individual SPAs, the Ministers concluded it is reasonable to deliver compensatory measures at a few sites rather than at each of the individual SPAs that are affected. 

The compensatory measures, described as "largely novel", include drainage management at cliff edge locations to increase the availability of potential nesting habitat and quality of existing nesting habitat; path realignment and other disturbance management measures to reduce the impact of visitors; and tree mallow removal in puffin nesting habitat.

These measures are secured by a detailed seabird compensation plan condition in the consents.


Although the Green Volt consent decisions show the complexities of the Habitats Regulations, it is encouraging that the applications were decided in approximately 15 months, without a public local inquiry. 



Neil Collar