Project info

WIND - Windfarms and Sustainable Development Goals: optimal approach for fragmentation and land use change
2020 - 2021
BCL-Biodiversity Conservation Lab

*Project funded under contract with the NCESD (National Centre for the Environment and Sustainable Development) – current N.E.C.C.A.

Project team

Dr. Vassiliki Kati. Coordinator 

Dr. Christina Kassara, biologist 

Lydia Tampouratzi, rural & surveying Engineer

Dimitris Gotsis, product & system design Engineer

Dr. Olga Tzortzakaki, biologist

Dr. Dimitris Vassilakis, forester 

Dr. Sylvia Zakkak, biologist

Maria Petridou, agronomist, PhD student (BCL/UOI) 

Lavrentis Sidiropoulos, environmentalist, PhD student (BCL/UOI)

Maria Psaralexi, biologist, PhD student (AUTH) 

Nikos Βukas, biologist (MSc) (BCL/UOI)

Tonia Galani, biologist, MSc student (BCL/UOI)


External collaborators

Dr. Zoi Vrontisi, engineer

Dr. Aris Moustakas, engineer


The convergence of climate and biodiversity policies, in the field of windfarm development

Research questions



Spatial data analysis


Sustainable spatial planning & SDGs


Land take and windfarms




Result dissemination



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Wind energy is the leading renewable technology towards achieving climate goals, yet biodiversity trade-offs via land take are emerging. Thus, we are facing the paradox of impacting on biodiversity to combat climate change. We suggest a novel method of spatial planning that enhances windfarm sustainability: investments are prioritized in the most fragmented zones that lie outside the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. We showcase it in Greece, a biodiversity hotspot with a strong climate policy and land conflict between conservation and wind energy schemes. The analysis indicates that the suggested investment zone supports wind harnessing 1.5 times higher than the 2030 national goal, having only marginally lower (4%) wind speed. It performs well for the conservation of the annexed habitats and species of the two Nature Directives and it greatly overlaps with the Important Bird Areas (93%) and the roadless areas (80%) of Greece. It also greatly overlaps (82%–91%) with the exclusion zones suggested according to three sensitivity maps for bird conservation. Since land use change triggers biodiversity decline, we underline the necessity of such approaches for meeting both climate and biodiversity goals and call for a greater environmental policy convergence towards biodiversity conservation and no net land take.
Wind harnessing is a fast-developing and cost-effective Renewable Energy Source, but the land impacts of wind power stations are often overlooked or underestimated. We digitized land take, i.e., the generation of artificial land, derived from 90 wind power stations in Greece constructed between 2002 and 2020 (1.2 GW). We found substantial land take impacts of 7729 m2/MW (3.5 m2/MWh) of new artificial land, 148 m/MW of new roads and 174 m/MW of widened roads on average. Models showed that the number and size of wind turbines, the absence of other existing infrastructures and the elevational difference across new access roads increased artificial land generation. The elevational difference across new and widened access roads also increased their length. New wind power stations in Greece are planned to be installed at higher elevations and in terrains facing higher risks for soil erosion and soil biodiversity. The general tendency in the European Union is to sit fewer wind power stations in mountainous and forested land. Still, this pattern is inversed in several countries, particularly in Southern Europe. After screening 28 policy and legal documents, we found that land take is indirectly inferred in the global policy but more directly in the European policy through five non-legally binding documents and three Directives. However, the current European energy policies seem to conflict with nature conservation policies, risking land take acceleration. The study provides insights for reducing land take when planning and constructing wind power stations. We underline the need for better quantification of land take and its integration in the complex process of sustainable spatial planning of investments.

Policy Brief

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Open lectures

Invited lecture presented in the Department of Civil Engineer, School of Engineering, the University of Thessaly at 22/12/2021. Speaker. V. Kati. Lecture title: “The nexus roads-windfarms-biodiversity under the light of sustainable spatial planning”. Abstract: Humanity depends directly on biodiversity and its services but we currently face both biodiversity and a climate crisis. The lecture will focus on two topical issues: (a) Road sprawl is a key driver behind biodiversity loss. We suggest a new national and European roadless policy towards the non-net-land take milestone. We present the roadless map of Greece, and we suggest the conservation in legal terms of large roadless areas as ecosystems of high natural, ecological and aesthetic value. The Greek prime minister announced the conservation of roadless areas in the world summit COP26 under the emblematic title “Untrodden Mountains”. (b) Aeolian energy is the leading renewable energy source. However, we often face the paradox of impacting biodiversity to combat climate change. We present a novel method of spatial planning that enhances windfarm sustainability: investments are prioritized in the most fragmented zones that lie outside the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. The suggested investment zone supports wind harnessing 1.5 times higher than the 2030 national goal, having only marginally lower (4%) wind speed. The sustainable scenario provides significant benefits to biodiversity and society. It is not known if the sustainable scenario will be integrated into the forthcoming national spatial planning for renewables. More info here and here. Pdf available in Greek.
Invited lecture at a webinar organized on 10/2/2021 by the Open University of Cyprus in the framework of the Postgraduate Program “Environmental Management and Protection”. Speaker. V. Kati. Lecture title: The triptych biodiversity-roads-wind in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals: the Greek case “. Lecture focusing on four topics: A. Biodiversity & Climate Change: The Challenges of the 21st Century. B. Roads: the “epitome” of anthropogenic intervention in nature. C. Wind farms: an urgent need for proper spatial planning. D. Linking research with the international political scene. Pdf available in Greek.
Invited lecture organized in the frame of a webinar organized by the Policy Committee of the European Section of the Society for Conservation Biology in 26/1/2021. Two recent papers published for Greece were used to illustrate the webinar topics ( and Pdf and vimeo video available in English. The goal of the webinar was : (A) to present the road sprawl and subsequent fragmentation problem at global and European scale, as roadless areas conservation is a long-term initiative of PC SCB-Europe. (B) to present the topical nexus of biodiversity loss and land use change stemming from Renewable Energy Sources, such as windfarm infrastructures, rapidly developing in the EU under the European Green Deal. (C) To present the relevant legislative and policy frame at global and EU scale and discuss the perspectives of integrating the webinar messages into the EU policy and legal frame. The webinar was not open to the public, but under invitation of key EU experts and policymakers. The two main messages of the webinar were: Message 1: Restrain road sprawl and land take in natural ecosystems in legally binding terms. Message 2: Better integrate biodiversity in climate policies: prioritize RES in least ecologically valuable zones. The following points were presented as questions/ points to consider for discussion by scientists and policymakers. Roadless areas should be integrated in the forthcoming European guideline as a criterion to set up ecological corridors expanding the network of protected areas (30% target), so as to increase the coherence of Natura 2000 and as a criterion to define and designating the strictly protected zones (10% target). [Biodiversity Strategy: EU Nature protection: key commitments by 2030] Roadless areas should be included in the legally binding targets of ecosystem restoration in the forthcoming regulation, as It is equally important to actively restore degraded and carbon-rich ecosystems (active restoration) and to proactively maintain intact ecosystems (proactive restoration) for no need to restore in the future (cost –effective). Proactive restoration could be more beneficial for countries with large tracks of nature remained, mostly in Scandinavia, eastern Europe and parts of the Mediterranean. Member States should have the liberty to take restoration actions according to their specific needs, including road removal. [Biodiversity Strategy: EU Nature restoration plan: key commitments by 2030] The “no net land take by 2050” milestone should be legally binding in the frame of Art. 10 92/43/EEC and the Landscape Convention should be reinforced for actual landscape protection, management and planning. Minimum land take should be integrated in the forthcoming regulation review of land use, land use change and forestry and road sprawl monitoring and roadless areas conservation should be considered in the 8th Environment Action Programme SEAs, EIAs, AAs, or subsidizing regulations could be better implemented to reduce the impact of land-consuming projects Landscape Fragmentation Indicator (LFI) and Roadless Fragmentation Indicator (RFI) could serve as new tools for monitoring and policy-making in the above frame. The EU could undertake an initiative of suggesting roadless areas as a distinct target in post-Aichi biodiversity strategy targets.



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This section lists articles of the international or national/ local press referring to the scientific findings of our research. The articles are indicative and are quoted without necessarily reflecting the opinion of BCL. The media coverage of our research is an indicator of the impact of our research on society.

Eurydice Bersi. Reporters United. Too much of a good thing? Wind power and the battle for Greece’s wild heart. 7/10/2021

Eurydice Bersi. NZZ. Ein Kampf um Windmühlen in Griechenland – der Naturschutz ist im Gegenwind. 21/3/2021.

TNH Staff. The National Herald. Greece Goaded to Keep Wind Farms Away from Environmental Areas. 24/3/2020

Giorgos Lialios. E-kathimerini. Experts urge Greek gov’t to rewind turbine plans. 23/03/2020

Κώστας Αγορής: Πρωϊνός Λόγος. «Αστερίσκοι» για τη χωροθέτηση αιολικών πάρκων στη χώρα μας! 13/1/2024

Γιώργος Λιάλιος. Καθημερινή. Πόση γη «χάνεται» στα αιολικά. 5/1/2024 

Μάριος Διονέλλης. Εφημερίδα των Συντακτών. Αντιπεριβαλλοντικά τα αιολικά με τη βούλα της επιστήμης. 31/1/2021

Γιώργος Λιάλιος. Καθημερινή. «Ντιμπέιτ» για αιολικά και Natura. 23/3/2020  

Βαρβάρα Αγγέλη. Typos i. Επτά φοιτητές επιχειρηματολογούν για τα αιολικά πάρκα. 17/5/2020

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