The Effect of Offshore Wind on the Human Environment (THEOW)

Principal Investigator(s): Dr Bridget Durning


Project start: April 2017

Funded by: EOWDC

About us

The Effect of Offshore Wind on the Human Environment (THEOW): the socio-economic impacts of offshore wind farms

It is recognised that generating energy through renewable sources, as with offshore wind farms (OWF), is vital for society’s future. Energy generated through local renewable sources also has a global impact - it strengthens the security of supplies at local level by reducing reliance on imported energy and also reduces the use of energy derived from fossil fuels, thus contributing to mitigating global climate change.  

In addition to societal impacts, renewable energy generation is seen as providing economic opportunities through job creation and bringing inward investment. Yet, although many societal and economic (socio-economic) benefits are stated, what the actual impacts are on the economy and communities near to OWF have never been explored. 

3 wind turbines

Research impact

Wind turbines from the beach

The results of the main part of the study were released by Vattenfall in late 2020, via a press release, which identified that the study showed that "local jobs, contracts and the Unlock our Future Fund connected to Vattenfall’s Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm are estimated to generate well over £5 million each year for the Aberdeen and wider Aberdeenshire economy over a 20-year period within its operating life". 

The press release was picked up by numerous offshore wind technical journals as well as the Scottish media. The lead author of the technical and guidance reports, Emeritus Professor John Glasson, has been invited by the Scottish Government to advise them on assessing the socio-economic impacts of offshore wind. He also presented the research findings on a webinar to the members of Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment in February 2021.



Name Role Email
Dr Bridget Durning Reader in Environmental Assessment & Management
Professor John Glasson Professor Emeritus in Planning and Impact Assessment
Mr Tokunbo Olorundami Research Assistant
Ms Kellie Welch Associate Researcher/Lecturer

Additional information about project funding

The study was funded through the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) Research Programme. The EOWDC is also known as the Aberdeen Offshore Windfarm which was constructed and operated by Vattenfall. 

EOWDC was awarded 40 million euros by the European Union to fund the construction of the windfarm (which has a number of innovative elements) and an associated research programme. The EOWDC is also supported by Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG). 

Project outputs

The aim of the project is to:

  • Explore the methods used to predict the likely socio-economic impacts of OWF before permission is given for the scheme to go ahead
  • Assess how valid the prediction methods are by gathering data of the impacts during the construction and initial operation phases of OWF schemes
  • Enhance the current understanding of the potential social and wellbeing impacts on communities of OWF and identify good practice methods to assess the impacts
  • Highlight best practice in how to maximise local socio-economic benefits from OWF
  • Consider the impact of tourism and recreation from OWF.

To achieve our aims, we explored the Aberdeen OWF off the Scottish east coast in detail, plus two other schemes (Beatrice OWF in Moray Firth, Scotland and Hornsea OWF off the English east coast). We also undertook documentary analysis of reports produced for other OWF in Scotland and England and selected European countries. 

Image credits:

 image in the Research Impact section titled "Aberdeen windfarm(2)" by ukdamian is licensed with CC BY-NC 2.0.