Seminar CRENoS DECA - Ståle Navrud

20/06/2011 - 14:00 to 16:00


Aula Magna - Facoltà di Economia

Via S. Ignazio, 74 - Cagliari 


Presentation of paper

Wind Power – Subsidized Landscape Destruction? 



Ståle Navrud - Norwegian University of Life Sciences




The 20-20-20 targets of the European Union includes the target of 20% of EU energy consumption to come from renewable resources by 2020, and many countries have even more ambitious targets for renewable energy. To reach this target many European countries have introduced indirect or direct subsidies to new renewable energy projects including wind power. This has lead to extensive developments of wind farms in many European countries, as the subsidies have made unprofitable wind power projects profitable to the developers. However, these wind farms has led to the destruction of important natural and cultural landscapes across Europe. This is of course due to the landscape aesthetic impacts of the wind turbines, but there are also significant aesthetic impacts of the to the needed infrastructure in terms of roads, buildings  and power transmission lines to transport the electricity from the often remote wind farms to the main power grid.  

Wind farms are often sited in remote areas along the coast, in the mountains or in agricultural areas with low population density in order to minimize the direct impacts to the local population in terms of noise and visual intrusion. However, many of the areas with a highest potential for producing wind energy constitute important parts of the shrinking European wilderness area, especially undisturbed coastal areas, and cultural landscapes. Thus, there is an increasing conflict between preservation of natural and cultural landscapes and renewable energy production; not only wind, but also solar, small-scale hydro, wave, tidal and geothermal energy Off-shore wind farms have been established in e.g. Denmark and the UK to minimize landscape aesthetic impacts, but is more costly and/or not feasible technically in many locations.  

An important question with regards to future investment decisions in the energy sector, is whether the full marginal social costs of electricity production from wind power, i.e. marginal private production costs and marginal environmental costs (which are dominated by landscape aesthetic impacts and impacts on biodiversity), exceed the full social marginal costs of electricity produced from existing fossil fuels like coal and gas fired power plants.  Whereas the marginal costs of production of electricity from both renewable and non-renewable energy sources are relatively straight forward to assess using market prices, the marginal external costs of landscape impacts demand environmental valuation methods. Stated Preference methods like Choice experiments (CE) and Contingent Valuation (CV) are well suited to this task, but so far very few studies have been conducted valuing the landscape aesthetic impacts of renewable energy. 

Results from a CE and a CV survey of national plans for further development of wind power in Norway show that Norwegian households place a high value on the preservation of natural and cultural landscapes. They also have a preference for fewer, bigger wind farms concentrating the impacts to a few coastal areas rather than the current policy of many, small wind farms all along the Norwegian coast. The estimated marginal external costs of wind power in highly valued coastal landscapes are even higher than the marginal external costs of fossil fuels; indicating that the marginal total social costs of renewable energy in important natural and cultural landscapes could exceed the corresponding marginal social costs of producing electricity from fossil fuels. These results question the high general subsidies given to development of wind energy in many countries, and suggest a change in the energy policy towards fewer and bigger wind farms concentrated in areas of less valuable landscapes.




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