Offshore wind power – spatial planning system and reconciliation of conflicting interests in Finnish territorial waters and exclusive economic zone

Kanerva Sunila, Ari Ekroos
Aalto University, Espoo, Finland


This presentation handles the Finnish maritime spatial planning and the measures by which different activities can be reconciled in the territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Until now, maritime spatial planning has not been systematic and the spatial planning has focused on the land and shore areas. The EEZ has not been under spatial planning. As building in territorial waters should be based on spatial planning, offshore wind power plants require a spatial plan (at least a special master plan) on which the construction permit can be based. In the territorial water areas a local plan or a special master plan for wind power have been used. In the EEZ, the procedure is different as no spatial plan nor construction permit is needed. A separate consent from State Council may be though required.

In 2016, the implementation of the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (2014/89/EU) was carried through by a new spatial planning instrument for maritime areas (Land Use and Building Act, 132/1999, amended by Chapter 8 a (Act 482/2016)). The Regional Councils with territorial water areas are required to prepare maritime spatial plans for the territorial water areas and the EEZ before April 2021. Even though this new instrument systematises the spatial planning in the sea areas, the plans will not be legally binding. They are to coordinate the work of the authorities and stakeholders but do not have binding effect to the authorisation procedure, nor provide a basis for a construction permit.


Legal dogmatic method is used in this study. The relevant legislation as well as the permits and spatial plans for offshore wind power plants and other activities are surveyed and analysed to understand, on one hand, how the established planning instruments and permits direct the offshore wind power projects and, on the other hand, how the new maritime spatial plans will impact this legal framework and the hierarchy of spatial planning system.


Regardless of the new instrument for maritime spatial planning, the exact location and other conditions for the offshore wind power production will also in future be based on the more detailed spatial plans and the required permits. In the EEZ, the authorisation process, especially under Water Act, 587/2011, will have an important role. These legal instruments will direct also the reconciliation of the different activities in the sea areas by taking conflicting interests into account. However, the maritime spatial plans will most likely affect the whole process, in spite of the lack of binding legal effects. The actual effects cannot be forecasted, but it can be assumed that there may be some obscurities regarding the final role of the maritime spatial plans.


It is important for the industrial actors in the offshore wind power sector to keep in mind that the location and the functions of the offshore wind power plants are set by the spatial plans and permits. The maritime spatial plan as such does not guarantee a right to construct. The whole process includes several stages and may be time consuming.


The target of the presentation is to provide understanding on the Finnish spatial planning system and the reconciliation of offshore wind power projects and other activities in the sea areas.