October 24, 2021

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Publications: Satellite images of wind farms show encroachments on nature three times greater than in the development application

Publications: Satellite images of wind farms show encroachments on nature three times greater than in the development application

In 2010 Sarepta Energi obtained a license from the Norwegian Directorate of Water Resources and Energy (NVE) to develop a wind power plant in Roan in a fairly untouched natural area in the Åfjord municipality in Trøndelag. The development was to include 110 wind turbines and 73 kilometers of roads in the same development area.

The width of the road, including the shoulder of the road and the trench, is specified in the license to ten metres. The actual encroachment on nature, roads and wind turbine parking spaces was to cover 851 acres. This corresponds to 110 football fields the size of Olival Stadium, laid under gravel and crushed stone.

Knut Putin

Knut Putin

Analysis of satellite imagery of the wind farm in Rouen, conducted as part of a master’s thesis in geography at the University of Nord, showed that the actual width of the roads, with embankments and intersections, was much wider than what had been applied for for a license.

The average width was not ten meters, but 42 meters.

Wind energy is clean energy, but, unfortunately, the encroachments on nature are significant. Wind turbines occupy large areas of nature, they are passive for wildlife and completely visually change the landscape. Locals and the reindeer husbandry industry in several places have been fighting the developments without being able to stop them.

Ivar safari holland

Ivar safari holland

Since wind energy is controversial, it will be reassuring to know that licenses are granted at least on the basis of correct information. However, the comparison between the license application and the actual interventions made here, gave disappointing results:

  • Permanent land-use changes covered 2,272 acres instead of 851.
  • The encroachment on nature corresponds to 318 football fields instead of the 110 that were applied for.

The survey was made through measurements in satellite images taken before development, in 2015, and after development, in 2019. By analyzing the data in the near-infrared region of the images, it is possible to determine the areas where the biological component is located. Production stopped.

Thus, the analysis identifies areas where vegetation has disappeared, due to its volatilization, or being laid under gravel and crushed stone.

From the time the license application is submitted until the project is completed, there will be some changes. In this case, some areas were taken out of the project, the number of wind turbines reduced from 110 to 71, and road lengths in the development area were reduced to 49.5 kilometers.

Despite this, analysis of the images shows that the increased width of the roads means that the infringement was nearly three times greater than the permission granted.

Were there any signs along the way that the interventions would be more extensive than are allowed?

Yes, in 2016, the NVE approved a new formulation in the environment, transportation and development work plan: in addition to the previously mentioned road width of ten metres, there will be any cutting and filling.

Is this change in layout enough to quadruple the width of the road?

The biggest intrusion of wind turbines in Norway is the massive dimensions that cause large parts of the country to change from natural to industrial areas. For example, Roan wind turbines occupy as much area as the municipalities of Kvitsøy, Utsira, Fedje and Røst combined.

The power plant can be seen in an area the size of Vestfold.

… The analysis of the area indicates that the expected land use by wind energy developers does not correspond to the facts


Because the consequences are so great, the reports should also be comprehensive. The area analysis in this project shows that when someone takes the time to go after the developer’s numbers, they turn out to be incorrect.

What we want to keep in mind is that the area analysis in this case indicates that the projected land use for wind energy developers does not match the facts. The results raise a legitimate question about whether developers are working with the right numbers on license requests.

We also believe there is reason to question NVE’s work as a licensee and successor to licensing. It appears that there is a need for stronger oversight mechanisms, which means that there is a consensus between the license request and the reality on the ground.

Is the Roan wind farm the only wind farm in Norway where this has happened, or is this the case in other developments as well?

This study indicates that more knowledge is needed on whether there is a match between maps and terrain.

If the interventions are too large, this is a problem that should be pursued by researchers, management and politicians.(Terms)Copyright Dagens Næringsliv AS and/or our suppliers. We would like you to share our cases using a link that leads directly to our pages. All or part of the Content may not be copied or otherwise used with written permission or as permitted by law. For additional terms look here.

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