Wind Farms in Australia: Overcoming Local Opposition

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Wind farms generate electricity from the power of the wind, a renewable and sustainable resource. Photo by Dorothy Carse.

Wind turbines may be a promising way to generate electricity, but there is often local opposition to the construction of new wind farms. A study performed by CSIRO, and published in Energy Policy, analyzes 7 case studies in Australia; it shows that  themes such as trust, place attachment and distribution/procedural justice are very important, in order for locals to accept a new farm.

Energy from Renewable Sources

In recent years, several countries have encouraged and favored the production of energy using renewable sources. According to a report published by the International Energy Agency, more than 70 countries have introduced policies and targets to increase renewable energy.

These nations are increasing renewable energy efforts to mitigate the negative effects associated with the use of fossil fuels, such as the emissions of greenhouse gases. At the same time, they can also achieve a reduction in the energy they import from other countries.

Sometimes local groups are against wind farm construction. Photo by TheLowCarbonKid.

Wind Farm Companies Opposed By Local Groups

One of the most common renewable sources of energy is the wind. Electricity generated by wind energy is not very high overall (only 2 % worldwide); in some countries, however, the amount of energy wind farms produce is much higher. In 2011, for instance, wind farms generated 18 % and 28 % of the total electricity in Portugal and Denmark.

Despite the promises of this energy source, however, there is sometimes opposition to the development of wind farms, from either residents in the proposed wind farming location, or from environmental associations. The opposition is due to the impact that the farms may have on the life of the local community and/or the environment.

Wind Turbine Farms in Australia

In Australia, the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is the program to increase the renewable energy production – the program managers intend the Target to increase demand for the construction of new renewable electricity generation as an alternative to coal as an energy source.

In Australia at present, wind generates 2.4 % of the total electricity. Due to the country’s potential in this field, however, they do plan development of more wind farms; in this way the amount of wind-generated electricity will increase, becoming the major RET contributor. Ideally, Australia should achieve a 20 % target by 2020.

Also in Australia, however, there is some social resistance to further development of wind farms; “Landscape Guardians” is the common term for the opposition groups.

Wind Turbines and Local Acceptance: Case Study

Dr. Nina Hall and coworkers, from Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO – Australia), performed research investigating the social acceptance of wind farms. The journal Energy Policy published the results on the 1st of April 2013.

In their study, Dr. Hall and coworkers considered 7 wind farms; these case studies were selected to represent different stages of development (operational, under construction, proposed and rejected) and different production sizes (below and above 30 MW). They analyzed the perspectives of the local communities and of the other stakeholders involved in the farms’ development. They also evaluated how this may have or not have effected the actual farms’ development.

Wind Farm Electricity: Different Points of View

In each case study, CSIRO researchers interviewed several people, representing different entities/groups and which might have a different point of view. The participants consisted of the wind company and/or the local government, turbine hosts, and community members publicly stating their support or their opposition (“local support” and “local opposition”).

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