The aim of this paper is to identify facilitating and hindering factors for onshore wind energy development near natural conservation regions, in particular in Lower Saxony's Wattenmeer region. An applied research approach was deployed to connect individual aspects of wind energy technology and establish a cross-disciplinary perspective on the expansion of wind energy. To this end, relevant facilitating and hindering factors were identified and then validated by a group of academic experts. The main factors were grouped within the framework of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. In a subsequent step, a sample of experts in the wind power sector evaluated the relative importance of the key factors, using an Analytic Hierarchy Process. The results show that factors positively influencing wind energy expansion exceed the hindering factors. Wind electricity is likely to benefit from opportunities such as climate change and from industry-specific strengths, for instance the competitiveness of wind in the German electricity market. Barriers and uncertainties that influence the further development of the sector relate to strict ecological protection laws and limited spatial opportunities for new projects. Finally, basic policy strategies were formulated which aim at fostering strengths and opportunities of wind energy development and at reducing weaknesses and threats.

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