The Scottish Executive has commissioned a major study to examine the environmental impacts of harnessing energy from Scotland’s marine environment.

Consultants Faber Maunsell, in association with environmental engineering consultancy Metoc plc, will be assessing the potential impacts of a range of technologies which generate renewable energy from waves and tides. The study team will undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which will play an important role in informing the future development of a marine renewable energy industry in Scotland, UK.

The study area will focus on the west coast of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland and the Pentland Firth. Within this area lies a considerable, and as yet untapped, renewable energy resource. A variety of new technologies are being developed which can convert the motion of waves and tides into energy. Some of these devices float on the surface while others lie on the sea floor or are completely or partially submerged.

The Executive’s interest in marine renewable energy is driven by an ambitious target of increasing the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources in Scotland to 40% by 2020. The Forum for Renewable Energy Development in Scotland’s (FREDS) recent report into the development of the marine energy industry indicated that by 2020, 10% of Scotland’s electricity production can come from marine resources, providing up to 7000 jobs.

The SEA being undertaken by Faber Maunsell and Metoc will consider the environmental impacts of marine renewable energy devices, both individually and cumulatively. The study will include all relevant marine, coastal and land based environmental issues ranging from marine ecology, to fisheries, archaeology and the coastal landscape.

Consultation with interested parties – including environmental organisations, developers and local communities – will be a key part of the study. Ultimately the SEA will be used to inform national and local level decisions on marine renewable energy policy. This in turn will form a foundation on which the environmental assessment, planning, and development of individual projects will be based.