September 2017

Keeping offshore wind developments afloat

Liz Foubister

Liz Foubister

Hywind, the world’s first full-scale floating wind farm, has now reached a key milestone with the installation of its five colossal turbines off the north-east coast of Scotland.


We are a long-term supporter of offshore wind and had our first involvement in offshore wind projects about a decade ago. Back then it felt like floating wind was still far off the horizon. However, in October 2015, we were involved in securing consent for the world’s largest floating offshore wind development which is currently being installed off the coast of Peterhead.   

Developments are now gathering pace. Statoil has recently installed all five floating 6MW turbines at Buchan Deep, approximately 25km off the coast of Peterhead, with a generating capacity of 135GWh of electricity each year. The pilot park will cover around four square kilometres at a water depth of 95-120m and will harness wind resources to provide renewable energy to the mainland. The Hywind development could power around 20,000 houses.   

Unlike conventional turbines, the Hywind turbines will be attached to the seabed by a three-point mooring spread and anchoring system. The turbines will be connected by an inter-array of cables and an export cable will transport electricity from the pilot park to shore at Peterhead.   

The application for a marine licence for the Hywind development off Scotland’s north east coast was approved by the Scottish Government and we were responsible for the production of the Environmental Statement (ES) that accompanied the application. This considered the possible positive or negative impacts of the project on the local environment as well as potential social and economic aspects. The ES represented the culmination of four years of consultation, surveys and assessment.

Various disciplines from the company provided specialist input to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), including experts from the underwater acoustics team, and benthic and terrestrial ecologists. The EIA provided an overview of the potential impacts, those of greatest concern and highlighted the mitigation required to ensure impacts will not be significant.  

One particular area of concern was the impact on birds. It was therefore necessary to work closely with the regulators and their advisors in the development of the impact assessment methodology to ensure sufficient data was provided. The impact assessment also had to address additional impacts to those associated with previously consented fixed bottom wind turbines e.g. navigational and fisheries risks from the turbine moorings.

Although Hywind is a relatively small scale offshore windfarm, the EIA provided valuable insight into the issues that will need to be addressed for future larger scale floating wind farms. This included the potential for the sustainable co-existence of marine activities and use of alternative fishing methods in floating wind farm areas.

This project has added invaluable experience to our strengthening track record in permit applications and environmental impact assessments. We have an impressive track record in offshore EIA in Scotland and have strong relationships with Scottish regulators, statutory advisors and the wider stakeholder community. Through our fully integrated offering, we deliver complete commercial solutions for renewable projects through its extensive suite of capabilities from engineering and project management to technical safety and risk management services.   

As Scotland’s first minister highlighted, the Hywind project is an example of oil and gas companies now working in the offshore renewables sector and an area “where we (Scotland) have a competitive advantage which we must take advantage of if we can”.

She could well have been talking about Xodus.