Onshore wind energy: Status quo and strategies to increase acceptance

Due to the public’s lack of acceptance of wind parks, the construction process is often delayed and/or halted. Specifically informing and consulting the public and other local stakeholders is seen by experts as particularly important in order to ensure successful planning and implementation. This was shown in a survey of 207 participants from a total of 13 European countries, which was conducted as part of the "WISE Power" project. The results are used later in the project to design acceptance strategies and recommendations for action that should be valid for EU countries whose wind energy markets are at varying stages of development. For Germany, the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI and the German Energy Agency are integrated into the project’s consortium.

The objective of the EU project WISE Power is to better understand the societal acceptance of onshore wind energy and to develop and implement suitable strategies to balance interests. In the medium term, the intention is to increase planning security for new projects and to decrease lead times. Planning authorities, political decision makers, representatives of the wind energy industry and others are part of the project consortium.

First of all, the project partners analyzed 40 existing guidelines, instructions and manuals as well as 15 scientific articles and reports which focus on public engagement in planning and implementation processes. On the basis of the nine most appropriate documents, a first summary was prepared for the project partners and external interested readers. This summary covers the wide range of possibilities to interact with the public and includes relevant prerequisites and pitfalls. In addition, weaknesses and contradictions in the analyzed body of documents were revealed.

As part of the expert survey with 207 participants from 13 countries, which had never been conducted before in this way, the researchers found that the responsible actors either did not know the publications at all or rarely knew them – despite many delayed or stopped construction projects. Even if such guidelines are known, they are not used as the material is often perceived as too abstract. In addition, not enough time and resources are made available for their application to specific cases. Dr. Elisabeth Dütschke, project leader at Fraunhofer ISI explains, “there is only a chance to obtain widespread acceptance if local citizens are involved as equal partners and resources are made available to implement needs-based strategies“.

Concerning the elements necessary to increase acceptance, Julius P. Wesche, a member of the project team at Fraunhofer ISI, adds, “that project developers and local decision makers are well advised to address and mobilize the – mostly silent - majority supporting the project, in order to represent society as a whole in possible consultation processes“.

The WISE Power project also focuses on further developing alternative financing and participation models. Currently, public-private partnerships are often used as a source of financing. Possible new participation models which are incorporated into acceptance strategies include, for example, institutionalized “citizen wind shares“ and crowd funding elements.

In the next phases of the project, strategies will be developed that can be applied throughout Europe, whose elements can be adjusted individually and which will be validated in simulation games. Subsequently, the findings will be made available on a European level to interested stakeholders in a broad range of workshops. This meets the needs of the affected parties in the survey who expressed the desire for more knowledge and engagement tools that have the potential to increase local acceptance.

At the end of the WISE Power project, a practice-oriented toolbox with recommendations for action which can be applied in a range of contexts should be available to representatives from municipal and regional authorities, project planners, network operators, citizens‘ initiatives, cooperatives and NGOs. It will be based on the analyzed documents and rectify the weaknesses and contradictions revealed in the summary. Findings generated in the other work packages will also be incorporated into the tool box. The recommendations for action will be published in ten languages so that as many actors as possible can take advantage of the results. In addition, more target group-specific workshops will be conducted up to the end of 2016.

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The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.

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