Power & Energy Solutions

The premier renewable energy publication

Don’t make public approval of your wind plans the most difficult part of your projects

Although wind power remains broadly powerful as a renewable resource, opposition to wind farms is nothing new. For supporters, wind seems to offer something for everyone: carbon-free electricity, construction and maintenance jobs, and competitive utility rates. Still, wind farms are not accepted by all, and criticism of new wind installations around the world has effectively stalled development of some projects and defeated others.

Wind power production in the United States continues to increase, especially when local governments seek to generate more tax revenue, but despite the many environmental benefits, when residents organize and fight a project, they often succeed. Rural residents across America are increasingly rejecting the advancement of wind energy projects in their communities when given a chance.

Arguments from wind farm opponents often focus on concerns about disruption of landscapes, noise, aesthetics, reduced property values, and bat and bird mortality. In rural states like Ohio and Minnesota, residents fear that large-scale wind farms will turn rural communities into industrial zones. To shift residents’ views on wind farms, they must be informed of the facts and many benefits of wind as a dominant energy source.

South Africa has exceptionally promising conditions for wind power generation but has delayed wind power production, conspicuously due to the lobbies for non-renewable power supported by the former President Jacob Zuma. Now that the country’s power utility, Eskom, has more flexibility to make decisions, it would be remiss to continue excluding renewable projects, which will benefit both Eskom and the country from economic and environmental perspectives.

In South America, a Chilean wind farm was defeated by strong opposition from the Temucuicui Mapuche community. Chilean authorities failed to inform the towns of Los Lolocos, Pinoleo, Pichilen, Pitriqueo and Pailahueque of the planned 155-MW wind farm to be built on ancestral Mapuche territory in a timely manner. As a result, the requirements for wind farm approval under Chilean laws to be unfulfilled. Opponents also claim the approval contradicts several Chilean laws, aimed at protecting indigenous lands and territories while also violating the rights that the indigenous peoples have over them. It is important to inform stakeholders about wind projects early in order to have a better chance at winning support and getting the project to approval. Any misstep will be exploited causing delays or lawsuits along the way.

Resident opposition groups are not the only force halting wind power production. In the United Kingdom, the Conservatives’ ban on onshore wind farms competing for subsidies means the sector’s future prospects are limited for the time being.

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