SSE Files for Consent for Berwick Bank, Says 4.1 GW Offshore Wind Project Essential to Meet Scotland’s 2030 Targets
SSE Renewables submitted the application for the 4.1 GW Berwick Bank offshore wind project to Marine Scotland on 9 December, kicking off the consent process with the Scottish Ministers. According to the developer, the project’s site in the Firth of Forth is the only remaining fixed-bottom site in Scotland that could bring forward this kind of capacity.
- Berwick Bank essential to deliver 2030 targets in Scotland and the UK, SSE says
- The project site is the only remaining fixed-bottom site that can deliver this capacity
- No alternatives found feasible, Berwick Bank proposed to be built as planned for IROPI
Berwick Bank is planned to comprise up to 307 wind turbines to be located in the outer Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay, to the south of the Seagreen 1 and 1A offshore wind farms.
The offshore applications now submitted are for consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989, as well as Marine Licences under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010c up to Mean High Water Spring (MHWS).
SSE Renewables has secured three grid connection offers for the 4.1 GW offshore wind farm: two connections at Branxton, East Lothian and an additional connection at Blyth, Northumberland.
The agreement for the third additional connection, named Cambois connection, was signed in June 2022 and applications for the necessary consents, including marine licences, are being applied for separately once further development work has been undertaken on this offshore export corridor.
The developer has also prepared a separate onshore planning application to support the application for planning permission under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 for the Onshore Transmission Infrastructure landward of Mean Low Water Springs (MLWS).
Under the Section 36 consent, for which SSE has now filed, the developers must commence construction within five years of being granted consent, unless directed differently by the Scottish Ministers.
Berwick Bank ‘Essential’ for Scottish, UK Net-Zero Targets, SSE Says
Berwick Bank was initially planned as two separate projects: the 2.3 GW Berwick Bank and the 1.85 GW Marr Bank offshore wind farm. In 2021, SSE Renewables announced that it had combined the two projects into one development, namely the Berwick Bank Wind Farm.
Since then, the company has revised the project’s overall area twice as part of measures taken to reduce the project’s potential effects on local seabird populations as well as benthic and shellfish ecology, fishing, shipping and navigation.
“Although the two projects were combined to create one larger single project, subsequent changes made to the Berwick Bank Wind Farm Project boundary have resulted in the Proposed Development array area being only 30.8% larger than the 2020 Berwick Bank project (1,010.2 km2 compared to 775 km2 ), whereas the maximum generating capacity of the Proposed Development array area has increased by 78.3% (4.1 GW compared to 2.3 GW). The maximum number of turbines required to generate 4.1 GW has also only increased by 26.9% (307 compared to 242) as a result of using larger wind turbines”, SSE Renewables says in the Offshore Wind Farm Planning Statement.
The developer pointed out that the Berwick Bank Wind Farm occupied the only remaining fixed-bottom wind farm site in Scotland that could deliver 4.1 GW of capacity.
“It is therefore important to note that if the Berwick Bank Wind Farm is not consented or unable to deliver the maximum achievable generating capacity, there are no alternative opportunities either within the Firth of Forth zone or elsewhere in Scottish Waters for the same capacity to be delivered against a similar time frame (early 2030s)”, the company states.
SSE Renewables highlighted this in the context of the project helping reach Scotland’s and the UK’s energy targets and strategies, and said that, without Berwick Bank, it was “very possible that delivery of multiple policies will fall short”.
Namely, looking at offshore wind projects deemed to contribute to the 2030 goals, the company says that “it is essential for Scotland that Berwick Bank is developed” and also that the project is developed to its full 4.1 GW of potential capacity. This is, among other reasons, because the great majority of ScotWind sites will not commission before 2030, according to SSE.
4.1 GW Development Proposed to Be Built as Planned, No Alternatives Found Feasible
As part of its application to the Scottish Ministers, SSE Renewables also filed Derogation Case documentation, presenting alternatives and compensation measures, as well as a Statement of Need in relation to the project’s potential environmental and societal impact.
In the Statement of Need, SSE states that Berwick Bank is capable of delivering large amounts of clean electricity from the mid-2020s and will significantly contribute to the low 2030 Scottish Offshore Wind Capacity Target of 8 GW, as well as the high target of 11 GW. Without the 4.1 GW offshore wind farm, the target capacity will not be met, according to the company.
Furthermore, since Berwick Bank will connect to the National Electricity Transmission System (NETS), it will be required to play its part in helping the National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) manage the national electricity system, including participating in mandatory balancing markets and providing visibility to the power market of its expected generation.
“This means that the low marginal cost wind power it will produce, can be forecast and priced into future contracts for power delivery by all participants, thus allowing all consumers to benefit from the market-price reducing effect of low-marginal cost offshore wind generation”, SSE states.
In the Derogation Case, SSE says that a total of eight potential alternative solutions have been considered but that no feasible alternative solutions have been identified.
Therefore, and for the reasons stated in the Statement of Need and other documents, the 4.1 GW development should be carried for “imperative reasons of overriding public interest” (IROPI), according to the developer.
SSE also highlighted that Berwick Bank would also contribute to the economic and social landscape in Scotland and the UK, primarily by providing employment opportunities and skills development in coastal communities, and by supporting Scotland and the UK’s offshore wind supply chains.
In its application documents, the developer referred to the study carried out BVG Associates (BVGA), released in September, which found that the 4.1 GW project could create around 4,650 direct, indirect and induced jobs in Scotland, and 9,300 in the UK, at peak construction in 2026.
It is also estimated that Berwick Bank would bring GBP 8.3 billion to the UK economy over its lifetime, GBP 4.1 billion of which would be in Scotland.
To offset the project’s impact, SSE Renewables has developed comprehensive compensation measures for which the company says were designed to deliver high compensation ratios to cover even the most
precautionary assessment of AEOI (Adverse Effect on Integrity (of a European site)).
“These measures are substantial and provide a comprehensive solution that will maintain and enhance the national site network as well as provide high compensation ratios which deliver significant deliver a compensation surplus which is likely to benefit future offshore wind farm proposals in Scottish waters”, the developer says.
The measures include management of sandeel fishery in Scottish sandeel area 4 (SA4) which, according to SSE, is considered the measure with highest advantages, with tangible benefits to be realised immediately after its implementation and to remain constant while other measures mature.
The suite of compensatory measures SSE plans for Berwick Bank will also lead to adding significant number of kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, and puffins into the UK population, with total numbers far in excess of those required to offset the impacts from the offshore wind farm, according to the company.
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