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Sustainable wind development

We develop tools and insights for sustainable development of wind energy to create a successful export industry, reduce cost and uncertainty, and resolve environmental and societal conflicts.

A sustainable development of offshore wind implies staying within planetary boundaries and meet (minimum) societal requirements. The development will imply trade-offs and have both positive and negative impacts that needs to be assessed and taken into account to make the right decisions. At SINTEF, we develop tools and insights for sustainable development of wind energy to  facilitate the resolution of environmental and societal conflicts, reduce cost and uncertainty, and to create a successful export industry.

The ambitious emissions reduction targets and ensuing transition towards renewable energy are projected to fuel the deployment of large-scale offshore wind farms. Technological developments can however lead to inequalities, increased resource use and negative impacts on nature and climate. The strong interconnections between countries and supply chains make it necessary to get a good look at the system in its entirety to uncover both positive and negative ripple effects of large-scale developments. This knowledge will enable policymakers to adopt measures to reduce or compensate the negative effects, while maximising the positive ones. The knowledge produced intends to support and facilitate the action of policymakers and industries to achieve enhanced societal wellbeing and a healthy ecosystem, mitigate any negative effects, and favour an inclusive involvement of stakeholders. 

Environmental impact and environmental design

The sustainable deployment of wind energy requires a development that respects planetary boundaries, maintains the integrity of material cycles and ensures biodiversity. The growth of wind energy will create negative environmental impacts that need to be consistently assessed and mitigated. It may also create positive impacts on the ecosystem, and there is an increasing focus on nature-inclusive design to increase suitable habitat for native species. In all cases, the increase in wind energy production will entail inherent trade-offs that need to be evaluated using an interdisciplinary approach. Therefore, we are committed to:

  • Assessing multiple-stressor impacts of marine operations
  • Assessing the climate and environmental impacts through the value chains
  • Quantifying the ecological footprint of development
  • Developing best regulatory practices and international standards for Environmental impact assessments
  • Creating tools to minimise impact of development on wildlife

Public engagement, participation, and controversy

For the energy transition to be sustainable, it must leave no one behind. For that, we actively engage in

  • Exploring the institutional, industrial, legal, and material underpinnings of energy citizenship related to wind energy
  • Investigating existing and developing forms of wind energy governance, planning and implementation processes
  • Advancing principles of responsible research and innovation.
  • Designing and promoting strategies for energy justice that address effectively distributive, procedural and recognition dimensions

Wind and the energy transition

  • Examining the role of Norwegian wind energy in the future low-cost, low-emission European energy supply
  • Developing industrial circular value chains to support scaling from tens to hundreds of gigawatts
  • Assessing regulation, contracts, and business models

Co-use: An opportunity at sea

Offshore wind energy will play an important role in the future offshore energy system. Co-use of the sea space has significant potential to develop offshore wind power to be more sustainable. This implies both co-use with other industries, people in general, as well as nature.

There is an overlap between the needs of different industries that operate at sea, such as wind power, wave power, oil and gas, aquaculture, and fishing. These needs may involve for example detailed weather reports, information on bedrock topography, communication systems, control systems, infrastructure such as moorings, transport of material and personnel, and training of professionals who will operate systems at sea. To ensure successful co-use, an inclusive involvement of all stakeholders is necessary.

Co-use can counteract conflict

Norway has a knowledge advantage within maritime industries. In order to keep this advantage, we should continue to focus research and education on harnessing the co-use of sea spaces across industries and knowledge areas.

Taking co-use into account can both safeguard the sustainability perspective in its entirety and contribute to building a knowledge basis that counteracts potential conflicts between different interest groups.

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