SCOTLAND could soon be differing from the rest of the UK in its approach to offshore wind farms, according to top energy law experts.

Crown Estate Scotland (CES) last month unveiled plans to lease new areas of seabed for offshore windfarms. In its discussion paper, CES, which is currently becoming a devolved agency, asked for responses by August 31, with findings due to be published by the end of 2018.

Alan Cook, a partner and expert in offshore renewables at law firm Pinsent Masons, said: “There are encouraging signs contained within the CES discussion paper in to how the seabed and offshore renewables will be managed under its devolved status.

“The paper is framed in an open way that asks developers and other interested parties to contribute opinion on how things could be improved compared to the approach in previous UK licensing rounds, and if lessons can be learned then that can only be viewed as a positive.

“It is encouraging that CES said it would not be prescriptive in terms of what type of offshore technologies would be adopted and that opens up the options to look at models other than traditional fixed turbine wind farms.

“We have recently seen Statoil launch the world’s first floating wind farm – Hywind – off the coast of Aberdeenshire based on technologies which were not available just a few years ago, and an open-minded approach to exploring the benefits of new developments in offshore wind technology will enhance Scotland’s reputation for leading the renewables sector.

“Although not covered in the discussion paper, another factor at play for those working in the sector is how the changing face of traditional oil and gas activity may impact on renewables.

“Previous constraints on developing windfarms were in place because of the location of long-established oil and gas producing infrastructure but as more oil and gas assets come offstream, it frees up more seabed and provides opportunities for new windfarms in areas which were previously off-limits.

“This discussion paper is more evolutionary than revolutionary, and while some of the timeframe targets seem ambitious, on the whole the renewables sector will welcome the opportunity to take part in shaping regulation in this economically important industry.”

Brodies LLP partner Kirsty Macpherson, who is co-head of its renewables team. told the Offshore Wind publication: “The Crown Estate Scotland is keen to have their first round of offshore wind in process by the end of 2018 with Marine Scotland already working on their Sectoral Marine plan for offshore wind.

“This could see the divergence of approach to offshore wind between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“Scotland has a real opportunity to chart new waters and are already demonstrating this with the world’s first floating offshore windfarm, Hywind Scotland.

“The regime in Scotland is likely to differ from the rest of the UK.”