To meet the increased demand for energy and reduce global warming, we need to turn to more sustainable sources of power. Expanding land-based wind power on a larger scale is a part of this effort. Finding suitable areas for wind power expansion is challenging and requires planning that often needs to account for numerous land uses and values. This is demonstrated in a report where researchers have analyzed land types, national interests, formally protected areas, and landownership in and around land-based wind power sites in Sweden.
"In Sweden, there is no comprehensive planning for the landscape, beyond the general plans made at the municipal level. There is a need for coherent planning for the sustainable use and development of landscapes and natural resources. Wind power expansion can motivate such landscape planning," says the report's lead author, Johan Svensson from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Local conditions should guide
The need for a new energy system competes with other needs, and conflicts must be managed. Researchers argue that a sustainable wind power expansion must be planned based on local conditions, especially in areas crucial for reindeer husbandry.
"Wind power development must also be put into the perspective of other land uses, climate change, and factors affecting reindeer husbandry. However, the most significant changes and the most extensive impact will occur in southern Sweden," says Johan Svensson.
Wind power can yield positive synergies
The researchers also highlight the potential for situations where land-based wind power can be integrated with other land uses and values, creating synergistic effects.
"Land-based wind power is mainly constructed on forest land owned by forestry companies. The expansion of wind power can motivate a shift from a strong focus on timber production to multiple land uses, incorporating wind power alongside other forms of land use and conservation," says Johan Svensson.
The report also underscores the need for compensation for landowners and other affected parties, as well as long-term support for municipalities, both in areas used for wind power and in surrounding landscapes. Additionally, the need for a review of the Environmental Code's national interests is highlighted to enable decisions regarding wind power projects.
The report was authored by researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Umeå University within the Vindval research program, a collaboration between the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the Swedish Energy Agency.
Read the report (only available in Swedish).