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Scoping Study for Offshore Wave Energy Development in Scottish Waters

UK - Scotland


This  report describes the process employed by Marine Scotland in collaboration with The Crown  Estate to develop a series of new wave energy plan options within Scottish marine waters.

Application in MSP:
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Questions this practice may help answer

  • How is planning for wave energy undertaken in Scotland?
  • How were constraints analysed spatially to inform sectoral planning for wave energy in Scotland?
  • How has the spatial analysis approach been tested and improved over time?

Implementation Context

The Scottish Government has set a range of challenging targets for energy and climate change. These recognise the potential to take advantage of the extensive marine energy resources (wind, wave and tidal power) available in Scottish waters and include meeting at least 30% of total energy demand from renewable sources by 2020, incorporating 100% of electricity demand from renewables (31% by 2011), 11% of heat demand from renewables, 10% of transport fuel from renewables. In addition, the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 sets statutory targets of at least 42% emissions cuts by 2020, and at least 80% by 2050.

To assist in meeting these targets, the Scottish Government has adopted an iterative approach to marine planning for the renewable energy sectors. A Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters (Blue Seas - Green Energy) sets out the Government's vision for developing offshore wind energy up to 2020 and beyond and has identified short term development sites for offshore wind up to 2020, with a potential to deliver almost five Gigawatts (GW) of electricity generation capacity. A new Scoping Study extends the potential development area out to 200 nm.

A sensitivity analysis of the process used to develop the offshore wind Plan concluded that, as additional data and monitoring information and improved data handling procedures become available, these should be incorporated into the emerging iterative marine planning process.

A process was therefore put in place by Marine Scotland to develop a Scoping Report for the potential for wave energy development in Scottish waters out to 200 nautical miles, building on the Scoping Study undertaken for the Saltire Prize (Harrald and Davies, 2010). This report describes the process employed by Marine Scotland in collaboration with The Crown Estate to develop a series of new wave energy plan options within Scottish marine waters.

Aspects / Objectives

  • Outline the method used to evaluate the potential for wave energy development in Scotland.
  • Describe how the method has been updated to enable improvements to the approach.


The Crown Estate spatial modelling tool MaRS was used to create multi-factorial expressions of the technical opportunities and constraints on offshore wave energy development in Scottish waters, and of the constraints on consenting presented by themed groups of factors. These themes reflect current commercial (industrial) activities such as fishing, aquaculture and offshore oil and gas, environmental factors such as designated Natura sites and the distributions of certain sensitive species, and a broad field of “sociocultural” interests including recreational uses, archaeological potential, visual and landscape factors. These models have been combined and used to develop overall expressions of the relative degrees of constraint. The sensitivity of the process was investigated through the creation of a series of combined models altering the relative influence of each the themes. Considerable similarities were found between the combined models, and the model that weights the three themes equally was taken forward and used to develop plan options for wave energy developments within Scottish Territorial Waters (STW).

Main Outputs / Results

Report available online at:

Areas of search for Plan option areas for wave energy development in waters of 0-90m depth within the wave power resource area


This report documents the strategic planning for wave energy in Scotland; it may be of methodological interest to other countries developing spatial planning tools to analyse overlapping constraints and identify development potential.

Contact Person

Marine Scotland

The Scottish Government

Victoria Quay



Responsible Entity

Scottish Government

Costs / Funding Source

Scottish Government