Climate change and the needed reductions in the use of fossil fuels call for the development of renewable energy sources. However, renewable energy production, such as hydropower (both small- and large-scale) and wind power have adverse impacts on the local environment by causing reductions in biodiversity and loss of habitats and species. This paper compares the environmental impacts of many small-scale hydropower plants with a few large-scale hydropower projects and one wind power farm, based on the same set of environmental parameters; land occupation, reduction in wilderness areas (INON), visibility and impacts on red-listed species. Our basis for comparison was similar energy volumes produced, without considering the quality of the energy services provided.
The results show that small-scale hydropower performs less favourably in all parameters except land occupation. The land occupation of large hydropower and wind power is in the range of 45–50 m2/MWh, which is more than two times larger than the small-scale hydropower, where the large land occupation for large hydropower is explained by the extent of the reservoirs. On all the three other parameters small-scale hydropower performs more than two times worse than both large hydropower and wind power. Wind power compares similarly to large-scale hydropower regarding land occupation, much better on the reduction in INON areas, and in the same range regarding red-listed species. Our results demonstrate that the selected four parameters provide a basis for further development of a fair and consistent comparison of impacts between the analysed renewable technologies.