More local anchoring and stricter environmental requirements have made wind power, as a renewable energy source, a sustainable development since the stop in permit applications in 2019. Åslaug Haga, CEO of Fornybar Norge, is crystal clear. Both the wind power industry and the authorities have learned from the stop in permit applications in 2019.
– Ten years ago, there was a strong political desire to build more wind power in Norway because we saw that we would need more renewable energy in the future. Measures were put in place for this. Wind power turned out to be the most suitable technology, begins Haga.
In the years that followed, there was a rapid expansion, and wind power quickly became a significant part of the energy supply. But in 2019, there was suddenly a halt in the processing of permit applications for onshore wind power. Why?
The permit system in Norway was not good enough
– I believe the main explanation is that the permit system was not good enough. There was insufficient local anchoring, says the leader of Fornybar Norge.
Haga points out, for example, that some facilities were built several years after the permit was granted, and in the meantime, the turbine height had increased.
– This does not necessarily mean that the facility became worse, but it was different from what the local population had been promised. There are also examples where environmental surveys were inadequate. All of this created legitimate resistance, and it was entirely right to take a break and change the permit system.
The break in processing applications had a strong impact. So, what has the industry really learned in the aftermath?
– Now, local anchoring is increasing, and the footprint is decreasing. It can involve infrastructure reuse and other measures that minimize land use. It can be bird ponds that preserve bird populations or completely different measures, such as in operations, says Haga.
She emphasizes that developers, host communities, environmental interests, and other relevant stakeholders must work together to determine the exact measures that are suitable for each project.
– Developers have focused on dialogue before, but they will be even more focused on it in the future.
However, it's not just the industry that has moved in the right direction in recent years.
– The authorities have also learned. They have updated their knowledge about wind power and its positive and negative aspects, giving considerable importance to local acceptance, requiring more neighbor involvement, and imposing stricter environmental requirements, says Haga.
Another addition is that the government has introduced arrangements that ensure the host municipalities receive a larger share of the income from wind farms.
– Much will change when the next generation of wind farms is built, she says.
We have seen surveys that show that the population has become more positive about wind power. It is a logical consequence of much of the opposition being heard and the permit system being changed.
Nevertheless, the resistance to onshore wind power, which intensified some years ago, is still significant.
– When people feel overrun, and on top of that, feel that someone else is reaping the rewards, resistance occurs. I also believe that the power need has not been well-communicated. We have enough power today, but we are in the midst of a transition from fossil to renewable energy, which means we will need more in the coming years, says Haga.
The former top government official points out that there are also many who are in favor of new wind power development. And she is confident that acceptance will grow.
– We have seen surveys that show that the population has become more positive about wind power. It is a logical consequence of much of the opposition being heard and the permit system being changed. And, more importantly, power shortages and high electricity bills will increase understanding that more power is needed.
The CEO's job of continuing to fight for more wind power here in Norway will definitely not diminish in strength in the future.
– About half of the energy consumption in Norway is fossil. It must be quickly replaced by renewable energy. We cannot do that without using the technologies that are mature and provide enough power in time. Wind power is the most realistic solution, says Haga before concluding:
– It is renewable energy that is the solution to the climate crisis. In addition, new wind power facilities create jobs and industry. So, it offers the country fantastic opportunities while helping to solve the greatest challenge of our time.