European targets advocate the increase from 40% to 55% net greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction with respect to 1990 levels by 2030. The Netherlands, with the aim to reduce at least 49% of GHG by 2030, has agreed that thirty energy regions will investigate where and how in the best way sustainable electricity on land and inland lakes (wind and solar) can be generated.
One of the main causes of delays and challenges of wind energy projects for new wind farm development are the social acceptance and the environmental impacts, in particular impact on birds. In recent years, public consultation has been defined as integral part of environmental and socio-economic assessments and of maritime spatial planning processes. Early involvement of all groups is deemed crucial for the timely deployment of new capacity.
However, social acceptance is difficult to represent in spatial assessments, due primarily to the lack of existing methodologies to capture representative data. Participatory methodologies, which engage with community and societal actors, should be employed as early as possible when developing renewable energy projects, thereby decreasing risks due to opposition or lack of societal support at later stage.
With regards to the environment, the real impact of wind energy in the air habitats is quantified by assumptions that are not validated with real and accurate data. The lack of reliable data challenges the inclusion of constraints in spatial analysis. These impacts based on assumptions reduce the potentially available area for new projects and require curtailments strategies, limitations and penalties to wind farm developers and owners, impacting the business case of the project. The lack of accurate data on the actual fatality rate resulting from bird collisions, bird behaviour, and the change of habitat reflects an urgent need for a standard methodology for assessing impact and measurement technology to accurately quantify the real impact. There is a clear need for further research to better understand the real impact of the wind turbines on air habitat and consequently,
- Conclude what the most suitable wind turbine control strategies are to minimize the impacts and,
- Adapt the design of the wind farms located in nature protected areas to specific environmental constraints.
This study provides a methodological approach and analysis on assessing suitable geographical areas for onshore wind energy deployment, considering a comprehensive set of criteria on land use, protected areas, and wind resource characteristics combined with specific environmental impacts such as bird migration routes, grid constraints such as power grid congestions and social acceptance of local communities.
The framework provides, on the one side, a complete overview of the challenges and barriers, and, on the other side the drivers and potentials (alt. success factors) for the deployment of onshore wind energy in the Netherlands, with a focus on a specific regional case: Energy Region Noord-Holland Noord.