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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Wind power distribution across subalpine, boreal, and temperate landscapes

Svensson, Johan; Neumann, Wiebke; Bjarstig, Therese; Thellbro, Camilla

Abstract

. Onshore wind power is increasingly expanding to meet global and national goals to increase renewable, clean, and fossilfree energy production. In many countries and regions, however, historical and current land use is extensive, and the expansion of wind power has to be well-tuned to avoid risking irreversible legacy losses of existing and traditional land uses, landscape values, and cultures. Hence, assessments of the siting premises of current and forecasted expansion of wind power are strongly needed as a basis for sustainable planning. We present a study from alpine to temperate biomes in Sweden, where an ambitious onshore wind power expansion strategy has been put in place and will result in Swedish landscapes that are typified by wind power. We explored the existing legal framework- i.e., the national interest for wind power according to the Swedish Environmental Code-concerning the spatial interaction with other national interests for nature conservation, landscape values, and other land uses, and the land cover, landowner, and formally protected areas distribution within wind power sites and in their proximity. We found that the national interest framework does not provide sufficient guidance for locating wind power to avoid spatial overlap with conflicting interests and values. Furthermore, our analysis revealed that wind power is located mainly in forest-dominated landscapes, and on lands where private forest companies are the dominant owners but where the proportion of public and non-industrial private ownership increases in the near surroundings. Finally, we found that large areas of formally protected areas are within the proximate areas influenced by wind power. As an extensive onshore wind power expansion is already going on, and an even more extensive expansion is projected, the ways forward toward a sustainable wind power expansion calls for integrated landscape planning approaches that are based on comprehensive assessments of existing interests and values.

Keywords

human-nature interactions; land sharing; land sparing; land cover; landowner; land use conflict; landscape planning; national interests; nature conservation; protected areas; renewable energy; sustainability; Sweden

Published in

Ecology and Society
2023, Volume: 28, number: 4, article number: 18