Footprint and Impacts of Renewable Energy: Pressure on Lands Under Growth  

Hydro-, wind- and solar power are key to green energy production, but future planning needs a better understanding of the tradeoffs among different options.

The goal is to provide valuable new solutions to guide the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy while minimizing impacts on natural resources in Norway.

There are two key scientific challenges. The first is managing the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy to mitigate the effects of climate change. A second is to minimize the effects of land use change from renewable energy on biodiversity and ecosystem services. In the project researchers and stakeholders will work together to address the technical challenges from several different perspectives.

The interdisciplinary team will develop alternative scenarios based on new technologies, impacts on carbon dynamics and ecological systems, and social and economic considerations.

Renewables vs natural resources? 

Public opposition to wind power development has increased in Norway lately. Many have protested that development of wilderness areas conflicts with  cultural values and nature conservation. 

Hydropower remains the dominant source of energy in Norway and recent debate has centered on upgrading vs developing new hydropower. So far, the knowledge on trade-offs between water- and wind power, and different locations of wind power has been inadequate.

Evaluating options for renewable energy requires a better understanding of impacts on actual area requirements, carbon budgets and biodiversity. The project will tackle these questions with new spatial models and software tools for a complete accounting.

The researchers will evaluate alternative scenarios where they will explore trade-offs between upgrading hydropower turbines vs new development, siting of wind turbines in different habitats, building electricity grids in networks vs. corridors, or by integrating hydro and wind power together for greater flexibility in storage and power production.  

What is the economical pay-off?

The transition to renewable energy involves considerable social and economic change.  Change is always disruptive. Whether it is an issue of changing your mind, changing policy or spending money.  But often it turns out better than expected. It could be because we often do not consider the cost of “before,” or do not know what the economic gain will be.

The final stage of the project will consider tax policy and possible economic incentives that might favor the best scenarios and develop new policy recommendations for decision-makers in Norway.

Advice for policymakers

The goal is to provide options and valuable new solutions for renewable energy and land under pressure in Norway. 

The knowledge developed by the project will be used to make recommendations for policymakers in Norway, so that they will better be able to make informed decisions when it comes to land use and renewable development. Providing a more complete accounting of the tradeoffs in terms of land use, carbon budgets and impacts on biodiversity than have been realized before.  

The project will also build infrastructure for research on renewable energy as a multi-faceted collaboration among ecologists, engineers, social scientists, and economists with complementary skills. 

By using new tools to explore a wider range of options for renewable energy development and to consider scenarios that are relevant to environmental groups in Norway.  



Project period: 2021-2025

Goal: Provide valuable new solutions to guide the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy while minimizing impacts on natural resources in Norway 

Funding: The FIREPLUG project has been financed as a 4-year project under the Land Under Pressure program of the Research Council of Norway (RCN).  

Partners: The project is led by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), with research partners at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the Centre for International Climate Research (CICERO).  

Participating stakeholders include the environmental groups Naturvernforbundet, Norsk Friluftsliv, SABIMA, WWF-Norway, and ZERO, as well as the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) as the regulatory authority for new concessions.