Proposal for a new national plan for onshore wind power

The proposal contains an updated knowledge base for onshore wind power and points out the areas most suited for wind power.

This week, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) published a Proposal for a national framework for onshore wind power.

The NVE has indicated 13 areas considered most suited for wind power development. The assessment is based on an analysis of wind conditions, network capacity and other important social, nature and environmental interests. Within the 13 areas, there are also considerable areas that the NVE has already excluded from wind power development. The total net area considered by the NVE to be suited for wind power development spans 16,705 km2.

The 13 designated areas are relatively large. The framework does not specify the exact locations for specific wind farms, which should therefore ensure sufficient flexibility to protect relevant local interests. Assessments related to the location of specific projects will therefore have to take place as part of the process of applying for a facility license. It should also be noted that the NVE's report does not give any indications of the wind power capacity to be developed within the designated areas.

In addition to the 13 designated areas, the report also contains a description of eight areas regarded as second most suited for wind power development. As such, there is a possibility that the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy will designate additional areas to the 13 that the NVE has already selected, or that some of the NVE's designated areas will be replaced by other areas.

Moreover, the NVE's updated knowledge base also contains information of relevance to developers and other parties with interests in future license procedures. An example is the NVE's signal that future licenses will contain a requirement of a minimum distance between the wind turbines and the surrounding inhabitants of four times the height of the wind turbines. Furthermore, the updated knowledge base contains information regarding the effects on birdlife, reindeer husbandry, outdoor life and electronic communication that may be relevant in future license processes and accompanying impact studies.

Implications for future license applications and previously granted licenses

Future license applications will still have to undergo a full license process, irrespective of whether they relate to sectors inside or outside the designated areas. Aspects not addressed by the NVE in the updated knowledge base will have to be addressed specifically in future license processes. In particular, this concerns matters without sufficient national data sets available as well as aspects of a local nature.

The NVE has stated that license applications relating to the 13 designated areas will be given priority. In this respect, the framework plan will serve as a management tool for the regulatory authorities and provide an indication to developers as to where to look to for potential new project areas.

It will still be possible to apply for licenses outside of the designated areas. However, the NVE has stated that such applications will not be given as high priority. According to the NVE, the wind power framework also carries the message that it will be more difficult to be granted a license outside of the designated areas.

However, two types of wind power projects will still be considered without regard to the proposed framework: Re-establishments and expansions of existing wind power plants, and small wind power plants close to existing infrastructure.

Previously granted licenses will as a main rule not be affected by the proposed wind power framework. A notable exception is if the license holder has to apply for an extension of the deadline given for commencement of operation. The NVE has stated that short extensions will be granted for projects with ongoing activities and projects with other justifiable grounds for postponement. However, in other cases applications for extension of the deadline for commencement of operation will be assessed based on the proposed wind power framework.

Going forward

The NVE proposal has been sent out for consultation, with the consultation deadline set on the 1st of August. In addition, regional consultative meetings will be held in May and June. Following this, the Norwegian Government will consider NVE's proposals and the feedback from the consultative round and meetings, and present its updated recommendation and policy for onshore wind power.

In the wind power framework, the NVE has mentioned several aspects about which they believe there is a need for more knowledge, for example the impact on birdlife, wild reindeer, outdoor life, the landscape and cultural monuments. Consequently, there may be new studies and mapping taking place in the time ahead.

The NVE has also recommended the preparation of new guidelines for the license process. In addition, the NVE points out that it might be appropriate to update the Guidelines for planning and localisation of wind power plants of the Ministry of Petrol and Energy and the Ministry of Climate and Environment from 2007. However, no further details or deadlines have been provided with regard to these processes.