Sanne Larsen giving presentation at ISER

Before building a center in Denmark for testing large wind turbines, an environmental impact assessment cautioned that noise from the turbines and the plan to cut down an old forest would need to be addressed. What the assessment didn’t adequately predict was that a light constantly flashing on top of the testing masts would be the greatest nuisance to residents of the remote community.

Dr. Sanne Vammen Larsen, an associate professor at the Danish Centre for Environmental Assessment, one of the largest research centers in Europe focused on environmental impact assessment (EIS), told this story at a recent ISER lunchtime talk. Larsen is visiting ISER as a Fulbright Scholar.

Larsen researches how local knowledge is used in assessments and the impact of uncertainty. She pointed out uncertainty is not often communicated during the assessment process. This, she said, may lead to missing important items that need to be addressed.

When it was learned that the flashing light on the center in Denmark had become a nuisance, a radar device was installed to limit the light’s operation to when it was needed. A study looked at the impact of the radar-controlled light on the community.

Not all uncertainty is significant, Larsen said. “We need a balanced approach and realistic solutions that provide value.”

Larsen’s presentation, “Uncertainty in Environmental Impact Assessment perspectives from Danish and Arctic research,” (PPTX, 32MB) includes examples of different types of uncertainties, where they may appear in the EIA process, the role of local knowledge, and the public perception of the EIA process.