The timing of the first 'ScotWind Leasing' round will be linked to the publication by Marine Scotland of its Sectoral Marine Plan (SMP), so may yet be later than July, according to Crown Estate Scotland. It has stated that it will not begin the programme before July, "even if the information on the draft SMP has been published by then".
Crown Estate Scotland announced in November that it was considering an April 2019 launch date for the leasing programme. It has not provided a reason for the change of date.
It intends to publish a further update on its intended timings in April 2019, alongside "further information which may be helpful to those considering applying to ScotWind Leasing".
Property law expert Alan Cook of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "The feeling is that this adjustment to the timescales is to allow more time for Marine Scotland to issue its Sectoral Marine Plan, or at the very least the consultation draft of it. Developers are keen to see the proposals for the SMP, which will be of critical importance to the success of the leasing round."
Crown Estate Scotland manages public land, property and property rights on behalf of the Scottish ministers, including rights to offshore renewable energy out to 200 nautical miles. Any money made from seabed leasing will be returned to the Scottish government for public spending.
Once the ScotWind Leasing programme is up and running, developers will be invited to bid for potential sites located in areas identified by Marine Scotland in its draft SMP. The Scottish government is hoping that projects will be ready to deploy from the late 2020s onwards, based on a 10 year development and construction cycle.
Crown Estate Scotland has published updated indicative timings for the programme, based on a July 2019 start date and April 2020 adoption of the final SMP. The first leasing round would last for six months, with a January 2020 deadline for applications. Option agreements would be made in April 2020. Clearing would begin in April 2020, with option agreements offered in September 2020. The next leasing round would follow in July 2021.