Billia Croo Wave Test Site: Seascape, Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment – A Year of Coasts and Waters Case Study

Submitted by: LUC

LUC prepared an impact assessment for an expansion of marine energy generation in a sensitive location off the coast of Orkney.

The Billia Croo Wave Test Site is an established marine energy facility operated by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). It is located off the west coast of the Orkney Mainland, within the Hoy and West Mainland National Scenic Area (NSA). The site was constructed in 2003, and offers a series of berths allowing developers to test wave energy technology in real sea conditions.

EMEC is applying for a site-wide consent, under Section 36 of the Electricity Act, that will streamline the process for developers by permitting wave energy devices to be deployed without individual consent. The application is based on a series of parameters setting the maximum dimensions and numbers of devices that could be deployed. LUC was commissioned to carry out a Seascape, Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (SLVIA) to support the application.

LUC’s landscape planners visited Orkney and surveyed the study area, taking in the settled coast around Stromness and the dramatic hills and cliffs of Hoy. The SLVIA made use of the Orkney and north Caithness Coastal Character Assessment, also prepared by LUC for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

We also undertook an assessment of effects on the defined Special Qualities of the NSA, using a new methodology being developed for this purpose by SNH. The SLVIA had to deal with the uncertainties of form, scale and appearance of future wave energy devices, as well as the effects of lighting on the undeveloped coast.

LUC’s work for EMEC will assist the development of new technology to harness clean, renewable energy from Scotland’s coasts and waters.

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