Environmental impact assessment (EIA)

Environmental impact assessment (EIA)

The obligation to conduct an environmental impact assessment is prescribed for in the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure (468/1994). All wind power projects that involve a minimum of ten wind power turbines or a total power generation capacity of 45 MW or more must undergo the EIA procedure. Also, projects falling below this threshold may require an EIA whenever the regional state authority considers that negative environmental impacts may be significant, or, for example, if there are other wind farms in the vicinity. It is common practice to seek a statement of the need of an EIA from the regional state authority also for the projects falling below the EIA limit.

The EIA procedure consists of two phases. In the first phase, usually called EIA program, a report containing a description of the project and a plan of the impact assessment is drafted. It is to be noted that also the grid connection should be considered in the EIA. In the second phase, usually called EIA report, the relevant impact assessments are made, and their results reported.

Regional state authority oversees the procedure

It is the project developer’s responsibility to produce the assessments and reports, but in practise these are generally drafted by third party consultants.

Both the need for an EIA and the EIA procedure itself are overseen by the regional state authority (Centre for Economic Development, Transport, and the Environment, also known as the ELY-centre).

Since 2017, local master plan (yleiskaava) can be carried out including the EIA within the master plan. The requirement is that the planned wind farm is in the area of only one municipality, and the authorities and project developer all agree on the joined process. In the joined process the municipality oversees the process and the Centre for Economic Development, Transport, and the Environment participated the project. Also in the case of the joint process two different documentation is needed, one covering the EIA report and other one the spatial plan.

The EIA is not a permit, but it is prerequisite for approving plans and permits. It is also to be noted that, whether or not an EIA is required, the land-use planning will require extensive studies on e.g. noise and flicker, nature values, endangered species such as flying squirrels, nesting and migrating birds, bats, impact on relics, reindeer herding (where applicable; app. 1/3 of the country area) as well as the impact on the landscape.