Increased use of energy from renewable sources is an important part of the measures needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to promote the security of energy supply, promoted by e.g. the EU Renewable Energy Directive. However, potential intrinsic goal conflicts can be anticipated between e.g. different EU Directives, concerning renewable energy and other environmental issues. For example, while implementing renewable energy systems, environmental impacts may occur which conflict with designated habitats and species protected by the EU Birds and Habitats Directives as well as with the European Landscape Convention, promoting human perspectives on landscapes. From a Swedish perspective, the Governmental environmental quality objectives should be considered in policy and planning. Landscape related environmental objectives for archipelagoes, forest and cultural landscapes, among others, may however conflict with future implementation of e.g. wind power technology and associated infrastructure. In this context, assessment of environmental impacts of renewable energy options calls for the application of landscape and regional level approaches in order to find satisfactory solutions and ways forward. The overall aim of the study is to explore opportunities and constraints for large-scale renewable energy systems in Sweden, in particular concerning environmental objectives.
Methods for strategic environmental assessment involve applying Multi-Criteria Decision Aid (MCDA) in a Geographic Information System (GIS), where scenarios driven by assumed energy demands, energy mix and technological opportunities and constraints are implemented. Localisation of wind power plants and related infrastructure are initially derived using information related to technology, economy, and meteorology. Major environmental impacts concerning human perspectives on liveble landscapes are localised and quantified, such as visibility and sound impacts, while biodiversity impacts are modelled concerning habitat and migration routes for birds and bats, together with potential impacts of infrastructure such as grids and new roads on ecological networks. Expected results are quantified impact assessments, while the GIS-based methods also allow for iteration of the suitability study for integrating environmental aspects in a final set of alternative options. These results are used for a final evaluation of strategic choices in relation to the main environmental objectives in an integrated sustainability appraisal, as part of the strategic environmental assessment.
Technoport – Sharing possibilities, Renewable Energy Research Conference, Trondheim, 16-18 April 2012.