UK Space Energy Initiative : environmental impact assessment scoping review of an offshore rectenna in Scotland

Wilson, Andrew R. and Oqab, Haroon B. and Vasile, Massimiliano (2022) UK Space Energy Initiative : environmental impact assessment scoping review of an offshore rectenna in Scotland. In: 19th Reinventing Space Conference, 2022-11-28 - 2022-11-29.

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This paper will present the results of an environmental impact assessment scoping report which was conducted to gain a professional scoping opinion on the development of a hypothetical offshore rectenna site located in the Highlands and Islands local authority region to enable space-based solar power to the UK. The construction, operational and decommissioning phases of the development will be discussed throughout the paper with a specific focus on environmental impacts. Different levels of UK and Scottish policy and legislation will be used to highlight the requirements and contribution of the development towards sustainable development. Furthermore, it will allow for a deeper understanding of how the development can aid the 78% UK emission reduction target by 2035 and the UK net-zero target by 2050. Policy covered in this scoping report includes Space Policy, Renewable Energy Policy, Climate Change Policy, Research Policy Conservation Policy and Planning Policy. Overall, this scoping report has been prepared to address likely significant impacts that the proposed rectenna site might have on the environment. The initial assessment of likely effects and mitigation techniques to prevent or reduce impacts have been explored for each of the following three groups: (1) the offshore physical environment; (2) the offshore biological environment; and (3) the offshore human environment. Across each group, the development will have either a positive and/or negative effect. A scoping matrix was applied to analyse the initial classification of impacts’ significance. From this, it was found that the development has the potential to increase renewable energy usage and aid carbon reduction targets which will help with UK commitments, whilst being in line with Scottish planning policies, regulations and guidance. Despite these findings, ongoing consultations with various interested parties are expected thorough the full length of the development. Working closely with the relevant authorities means that any issues can be resolved as early as possible in the development plans. It is advised that further baseline studies and data collections take place to examine the issues laid out during the scoping in a more detailed view. Therefore, going forward, the following recommendations should be considered: (1) further consultation with local authorities as well as relevant stakeholders; (2) an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and/or Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA); and (3) ensure that the development is known to public and communities on the coastline near the development. These recommendations will allow any potential significant impacts to be kept to a minimum and ensure any alternatives are explored as early as possible in the development. Following consultation with local authorities, an extensive EIA should be carried out. The environmental impact assessment scoping report presented as part of this paper could serve as an excellent support document for this purpose.