New tool to increase the social acceptance of onshore wind energy projects

There are many different ways to raise the social acceptance of onshore wind projects and thus increase the planning security for new installations. The challenge consists of sifting through them and adapting them to a specific case. The interactive online tool “WE Engage” was developed in the “WISE Power” project and addresses all the relevant stakeholders in the field of wind power as well as all other interested parties. It is available free of charge at The results of a survey conducted by the Fraunhofer ISI with 207 stakeholders from 13 European countries were used as input when developing the tool. In addition, to mark the end of the project, a prize will be awarded to wind energy projects that strongly emphasize social acceptance issues or carry out especially innovative acceptance measures.

The “WISE Power“ project addresses the social acceptance of onshore wind energy projects and is funded within the European Union’s Intelligent Energy Europe Program. The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI and the German Energy Agency (dena) are German members of the European project consortium.

As part of the project, the Fraunhofer ISI analyzed a total of 40 guidelines and manuals as well as 15 scientific articles and reports that are dedicated to integrating the general public in planning and implementation processes. In addition, the researchers interviewed a total of 207 experts from 13 European countries on the acceptance of wind energy projects and on suitable measures to engage and inform citizens. The results were used as input to help develop the “WE Engage” tool, which has been online since spring 2016. Furthermore, an earlier version of the tool, the guideline “Draft Social Acceptance Pathways“, was validated by representatives of the wind energy industry at a workshop conducted jointly by the Fraunhofer ISI and dena. This guideline contains strategies to foster better acceptance of wind power and can be downloaded in eleven languages on the project website.

Due to its variable applicability and the lists of practical examples, the interactive tool supports all the stakeholders in wind energy projects in planning and conducting measures to increase their social acceptance. Stakeholders include developers, grid operators, local and regional authorities as well as citizen initiatives, associations and NGOs. Dr. Elisabeth Dütschke, head of the project at Fraunhofer ISI, emphasizes: “It is especially useful that specific information can be provided for different target groups and project phases. In addition, the tool contains materials about the legal framework and gives an overview of the required resources in terms of time, costs and personnel. In this way, project developers can access information, for example, about which citizen participation measures make sense during the construction phase of a wind farm – and which resources they require.“

The WISE Power team will be presenting the “Best Community Award” when the project comes to an end. The search is on for wind energy projects that strongly emphasize social acceptance issues or feature particularly innovative measures for citizen participation. Applications for the Award are open to any wind power project from anywhere in the European Union that has been implemented since 2010, is currently ongoing or is still in the planning phase. Applications must be submitted by 31 July 2016, the winners will be announced at WindEurope (conference and expo from 27 to 29 September 2016 in Hamburg). More information is available on the WISE Power website.

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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