The increased integration of wind power into Finland’s energy production is a nationally significant strategic decision in the context of the green transition. With the rapid development of wind power technology and the growth in production capacity from wind turbines, Central Finland, especially in the northern part of the region, has become a nationally significant potential production area for wind power, with various projects in progress.
As part of the update to the Central Finland Regional Plan, the Central Finland Federation commissioned Akordi to conduct a study on the social acceptance of wind power. The objectives were to identify ways to strengthen the social acceptance of wind power within the regional plan. The study’s starting point was an assessment that, based on feedback from the Central Finland Regional Plan 2040 draft, in addition to open public participation, there is a need for dialogue and collaborative problem-solving with identified stakeholders and entities with specific interests or concerns related to wind power.
Picture: Phases of Investigation.
Key Issues and Impacts on Wind Power Acceptance in Central Finland
The study for Central Finland identified several key issues regarding the social acceptance of wind power. These included concerns related to the white-tailed eagle, landscape impacts, property values, electricity transmission, buffer zones, and tourism. Particularly, electricity transmission was recognized as a significant challenge for regional planning in addition to defining areas suitable for wind power production. The more wind turbines are constructed and the larger the network required for their electricity transmission, the greater the overall impacts on land use, carbon sequestration, the unity of forest areas and networks, and biodiversity. Regarding tourism, there was a recognized need to increase discussions on the impacts of wind power on the tourism industry and formulate industry statements at the national level as wind power continues to be planned and constructed throughout Finland.
New Approaches Needed for Wind Power Planning and Project Design
The study revealed that stakeholders find it challenging to understand what is decided at the regional level and what aspects can be influenced in the context of the regional plan. The influencing effect of the regional plan concerned many stakeholders and representatives of interest groups, especially in situations where multiple projects and various levels of project planning and general planning are concurrently underway with the drafting of the regional plan.
The study also highlighted variations in municipal practices for processing wind power projects and engaging with citizens. Experiences of inadequate transparency and participation erode trust in municipal decision-making regarding wind power-related issues. It seems that more shared guidelines are needed for wind power development, not only for the wind power sector but also for municipalities and regional federations to support planning. Regional federations could contribute to defining and sharing good practices and approaches in their areas, for example, by formulating recommendations for good practices.
Feedback and discussions from the Central Finland Regional Plan draft and the ongoing discussions reinforced the observation that early interaction among various stakeholders in the region helps convey the objectives of the regional plan and reinforces the social acceptance of wind power. In addition to citizen discussions, enhancing the acceptance of the regional plan requires other forms of interaction and collaboration. The identified effective interaction methods during the study, such as those related to the white-tailed eagle and tourism, are good examples of collaborative work that produced concrete solutions through multilateral cooperation. Also, the online citizen jury conducted during the study indicated that citizen discussions should be scheduled earlier in the planning process. This way, the perspectives of participants could be addressed during the drafting phase, potentially aiding in anticipating the content and quantity of feedback and enhancing the impact of participation.
Final Report of the Study: Luoma, E., Turunen, J-P., Kettunen, A. (2022). Social Acceptance of Wind Power and the Central Finland Regional Plan 2040. Results of the Study [In Finnish]. Akordi Oy publications.