Posted on 24 July 2023
Spatial and economic analysis offers valuable data for informed decision-making on the planning of wind farms without impacts on biodiversity.
How much land do new wind energy infrastructures need, in order for Greece to achieve its transition to 100% renewable electricity generation without impacting sensitive ecosystems? What is the optimal electricity generation mix by 2030 and what will be the total cost of investment for the necessary installations? How much land is available for the construction of wind farms under different scenarios of spatial constraints for biodiversity conservation?
With careful spatial planning, clear rules and the necessary restrictions to protect biodiversity, Greece can make significant progress towards climate neutrality through a 100% renewable energy system. This is demonstrated by the results of the "Wind and Biodiversity Atlas" analysis, an initiative and joint work of scientific teams from the Decision Systems and Management Laboratory of NTUA, the Department of Biology of the University of Patras and WWF Greece. The aim of the consortium is to provide evidence-based support to the policy and public discourse on the proper siting of renewables, and specifically on the ecologically sound spatial planning of wind energy, with data that are unfortunately lacking in Greece, making it difficult for the public to effectively participate in the critical decision-making process for the energy transition.
As the planet rapidly approaches the global warming threshold of 1.5oC, the need to phase out all fossil fuels and the transition to renewable energy become vitally urgent priorities. This is a reality which policy makers only now appear to realize. The impacts of climate change are clear and rapidly increase in intensity and cost, a reality which now causes Europe to speed up the development of the necessary renewable energy capacity. The fact that the transition to a zero emissions energy system needs to happen within less than 15 years is indicative of the time that has been wasted in a long, deep and costly dependence on coal, oil and fossil gas.
Time is of the essence for the energy transition, yet it is imperative that this be achieved in the best possible terms for society and ecosystem protection. In the framework of the Wind and Biodiversity Atlas, two energy, six spatial and three wind scenarios were developed. The required area for the installation of the necessary new wind turbines was then estimated and different spatial exclusion scenarios were mapped. Spatial scenarios for offshore wind energy were not developed in this context, due to the lack of marine spatial planning in Greece.
According to the results of the scenarios, in order to achieve the transition of Greece to 100% renewable electricity generation, the installation of 15.3GW (strong onshore wind scenario) or 10.6GW (moderate onshore wind scenario) is needed. Neither of the two energy scenarios is achievable in the maximum land restrictions scenario, in areas with strong winds (≥7.5 m/s). In areas with winds ≥6 m/s, the 15.3GW onshore wind scenario is marginally achievable, while the 10.6GW scenario is clearly achievable. In areas with lower wind potential (≥5 m/s), a transition to a RES system involving either 15.3 or 10.6GW of onshore wind is feasible.
It should be stressed that this analysis is not a site-specific selection tool and does not reflect projects in specific areas, but offers a "big picture" of spatial organisation options. Each project should be examined on a case-by-case and site-by-site basis with an appropriate impact assessment, in line with best practice to avoid potential negative impacts on sensitive ecosystems and flora and fauna species.
Identity of the initiative
The Wind and Biodiversity Atlas initiative was launched in 2021 as a collaboration between WWF Greece and two leading university institutions in the fields of renewable energy and the monitoring, assessment and mapping of biodiversity and protected areas: (a) the Laboratory of Decision Systems and Management of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens (Scientific director: Prof. Haris Doukas / Scientific associates: Anastasios Karamaneas, Diamantis Koutsandreas, Hera Neophytou) and (b) the Department of Biology, Laboratory of Botany, University of Patras (Scientific supervisor: Prof. Panagiotis Dimopoulos / Scientific associate: Dr. Ioannis P. Kokkoris).