By Lefteris Karagiannopoulos
OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian energy regulator NVE has identified 13 areas it considers to be the most suitable for developing new onshore wind farms, mostly in the country's south, it said on Monday.
Wind power investments are booming in Norway as development costs fall, with some 1.8 gigawatt (GW) of capacity under construction to add to its existing operating farms of 1.7 GW.
The 13 areas contain 16,705 square kilometres (6,449.84 square miles) of recommended land and were chosen from a total of 43 zones that were being considered, the water resources and energy directorate (NVE) said in a proposal to the ministry of petroleum and energy.
"These areas are pointed out by weighing production conditions and network capacity against the effects on the environment and society," ΝVE said.
While NVE's analysis showed many areas in northern Norway had better conditions for wind power, most designated areas were in the south due to limited network capacity in the north and large areas used by reindeer herders.
Many of Norway's indigenous Samis oppose wind farms as the construction work and roads associated with the projects can destroy or degrade lands traditionally used by the reindeer.
By identifying preferred areas for wind power, the NVA hopes to simplify the approval process, although projects must still be vetted individually, it said.
At the end of 2018, there were 610 operational wind turbines in Norway, spread over 35 different power plants. These have a total installed power of 1695 megawatt, and will in a normal year have total production of 5.3 terawatt hours (TWh).
In comparison Norway's hydropower, by far the country's largest electricity generation source, in a normal year produces some 136 TWh of power, which corresponds to 94 percent of the Norwegian power production.
(Editing by Terje Solsvik, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)