University of Oulu

Virtanen, E. A., Lappalainen, J., Nurmi, M., Viitasalo, M., Tikanmäki, M., Heinonen, J., Atlaskin, E., Kallasvuo, M., Tikkanen, H., & Moilanen, A. (2022). Balancing profitability of energy production, societal impacts and biodiversity in offshore wind farm design. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 158, 112087.

Balancing profitability of energy production, societal impacts and biodiversity in offshore wind farm design

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Author: Virtanen, E.A.1,2; Lappalainen, J.1; Nurmi, M.1;
Organizations: 1Marine Research Centre, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), FI-00790, Helsinki, Finland
2Finnish Natural History Museum, University of Helsinki, Finland
3VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd., Espoo, Finland
4Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
5Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Helsinki, Finland
6Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Finland
7Parks and Wildlife Finland, Metsähallitus, Finland
8Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 6.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-08-09


The global demand for renewable energy is on the rise. Expansion of onshore wind energy is in many parts of the world limited by societal acceptance, and also ecological impacts are a concern. Here, pragmatic methods are developed for the integration of high-dimensional spatial data in offshore wind energy planning. Over 150 spatial data layers are created, which either oppose or support offshore wind energy development, and represent ecological, societal, and economic factors. The method is tested in Finland, where interest in developing offshore wind energy is growing. Analyses were done using a spatial prioritization approach, originally developed for the prioritization of high-dimensional ecological data, and rarely used in planning offshore wind energy. When all criteria are integrated, it is possible to find a balanced solution where offshore wind farms cause little disturbance to biodiversity and society, while at the same time yielding high profitability for wind energy production. Earlier proposed areas for offshore wind farms were also evaluated. They were generally well suited for wind power, with the exception of a couple of areas with comparatively high environmental impacts. As an outcome, new areas well suited for large scale wind power deployment were recognized, where construction costs would be moderate and disturbance to biodiversity, marine industries and people limited. A novel tradeoff visualization method was also developed for the conflicts and synergies of offshore energy deployment, which could ease the dialogue between different stakeholders in a spatial planning context. Overall, this study provides a generic and transparent approach for well-informed analysis of offshore wind energy development potential when conflict resolution between biodiversity, societal factors and economic profits is needed. The proposed approach is replicable elsewhere in the world. It is also structurally suitable for the planning of impact avoidance and conflict resolution in the context of other forms of construction or resource extraction.

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Series: Renewable and sustainable energy reviews
ISSN: 1364-0321
ISSN-E: 1879-0690
ISSN-L: 1364-0321
Volume: 158
Article number: 112087
DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2022.112087
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1171 Geosciences
1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: EAV, JL, MV, MK, MT, AM, JH were supported by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland project SmartSea (grant nos. 292985 and 314225), EAV, JL, MV, MN by the Finnish Ministry of Environment project, the Finnish Inventory Programme for Underwater Diversity (VELMU), AM by the Finnish Ministry of Environment project MetZo-III, and EAV and AM by the Kone Foundation (grant 201803179). CSC – IT Center for Science, Finland, is also acknowledged for generous computational resources. We wish to also thank three anonymous reviewers for their constructive and insightful comments, which improved the manuscript considerably.
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (