What happens on land if offshore wind is established? That is the question social scientists at UiA want to find an answer to.
“Offshore wind is not only about facilitating large companies. We have to look at the bigger picture. We must find out how all of society can succeed if offshore wind is established along the Agder coast.”
That is what Laura Tolnov Clausen says. Together with Mikaela Vasstrøm, she is researching how the establishment of offshore wind in Agder will affect local communities.
Clausen and Vasstrøm are associate professors at the University of Agder (UiA). Both have previously researched the establishment of wind turbines on land, in Norway, Denmark and Scotland.
“Our research shows that we often fail to establish wind farms. The reason is that it was not anchored in the local communities,” Clausen says.
Many of Mikaela Vasstrøm's studies confirm exactly that. Wind farm developments tend to come to an abrupt halt. The main reason is that people feel that there are not enough community benefits to the project.
“There is a growing gap between the government’s goal to increase wind power development and the resistance at the local level,” she and co-author Hans Kjetil Lysgård write in a study from 2021 (Norwegian only).
Clausen and Vasstrøm are now busy with new research into the possible development of wind power in Agder. They hold talks with businesses, local authorities and community members, among other things. Through dialogue meetings, they will identify what wind power can bring to the area.
The first meeting was held in Mandal with 60 participants from the public and private sector at local, regional and national level. A report is now being prepared and will be ready in mid-March.
One goal is to find out what is needed for offshore wind to be widely accepted in the municipalities of Kristiansand, Lindesnes, Lyngdal and Farsund. These are the municipalities in Agder where the development of offshore wind will be most relevant.
The report is the starting point for an application to the Research Council. Together with GCE Node and Agder County Council, the UiA researchers will carry out a larger study. These are some of the questions the social scientists want answers to:
“Our previous studies show that the development of offshore wind is about more than technology. It is also about developing new policies that ensure there is legitimacy among the population in the long term. The choice of distribution policy is of great importance for people and local stakeholders to accept the development of wind power,” says Clausen.
She refers to an example from Great Britain. There, residents are offered to buy shares in one or more wind turbines.
The researchers remind us that when a small region says yes to wind power, it has to say no to other large ventures. It is a question of priority. Where something is chosen other things lose out.
“This is precisely why it is important to highlight how offshore wind can contribute to the development of society as a whole, both actors who invest in the development and the residents of the municipality,” says Vasstrøm.
She points out that the municipalities and the local community have to give up large areas of land and sea when wind power is established. The municipality and the people should get something in return.
“Offshore wind along the coast also require development on land, from the construction of ports to new roads. Industrial areas for the maintenance of large installations require space. The same goes for any base station that will operate offshore wind farms,” Vasstrøm says.
All offshore activity is linked to what happens on land. Everything from transformers, the laying of cables to ports and other infrastructure will be affected. Industrial areas, businesses and academia will also change.
“Change can bring positive energy and development. We see many upsides to establishing offshore wind,” says Vasstrøm and points to these advantages:
Offshore wind power is renewable energy. The supply industry in the region will get new opportunities when oil is phased out. Operation and maintenance bases will be established in the region. The need for preparedness and bringing renewable power ashore will give rise to new activity and create jobs.
Agder has previously succeeded in working together on important industry development. This is revealed in a study Vasstrøm did with UiA colleagues in 2022.
Here the researchers show how the region succeeded in developing the supplier industry in Agder. The main explanation for that success story is that actors from the business world and academia came together with a shared goal to build an international industry that specialises in development, preparedness and maintenance for the oil and gas industry.
“With the development of offshore wind in Agder, we face many of the same challenges as when Node, the University of Agder and the supplier industry in the region came together to develop expertise in the field of mechatronics engineering,” says Vasstrøm.