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What have we learned so far? How acceptable are wind turbines in Brandenburg and what are the reasons behind it? Does the distance between residents and turbines matter (see Fig. 1)?

Fig. 1: Visible wind turbines close to housings in Brandenburg (Photo: R. Camargo)

In the following, the overall results of the study of acceptance of wind energy in Havelland-Fläming are summarised as well as the findings of the literature review/synopsis and media analysis.

Synopsis: What does the literature say about the acceptance of wind energy?

The development of wind energy is not only supported by socio-political movements pushing for the achievement of the energy transition and climatic targets. Rather, there is an increasing number of confrontations of supporters and opponents of wind energy deployment at a local scale. Against this background, the synopsis aimed to give an overview of the methods research used to assess the social acceptance of wind turbines, to collect assumed factors that have influence on the attitude towards wind energy as well as to assemble different recommendations given throughout the reviewed literature.

Findings made clear that researchers focus indirectly on already published surveys in order compare cases on acceptance patterns, while on the other hand “in the field surveys” directly are used to cover the local attitude towards wind energy planning developments. Hence, the most common approaches in order to acquire data comprise literature reviews and questionnaires. Concerning the factors that influence social acceptance, it is noticeable that the most reported concerns counter wind turbines deal with disparities in socio-economic, procedural as well as factors of perception, such as noise, environmental and health issues. As a consequence, most of the stated recommendations to enhance the social acceptance apparently address aspects of the planning processes of wind turbines. Properties, such as the (open) access and cooperation in the planning process of wind energy projects as well as the fairness and open dialogs play major role in order to gain support for a project. Moreover, it was becoming clear that the perceived “fairness” also implies monetary compensation and/or involvement in the wind energy project, such as ownership models. Therefore, the participation process, on the one hand, plays an important role for local residents to accept planned wind turbines within their region, on the other hand, gaining direct benefits apart from the often-promoted “environmental-friendly” wind energy technology is also crucial.

Still, it cannot be ensured that proposed recommendations by academics are necessarily incorporated when it comes to local planning processes. There is consequently a need for future research to analyse a possible “science-practice gap”. However, it is to admit that there is no guarantee that the wind energy development is regarded complaisantly if all stated recommendations are complied. Values cannot be changed easily and since the overall consumption planning is often determined politically, the focal point has to lie on improving the factors that create the wind energy development acceptable for persons concerned. Therefore, this synopsis made a first overall contribution to shed light on what factors actually prove to be the most essential in forming people’s acceptance towards wind energy in order to improve future planning processes.

Media analysis: Does the media influence the social acceptance of wind energy in Brandenburg?

The questionnaire's results show that a relevant share of the Havelland-Fläming inhabitants read the local newspapers; these are mouthpieces for local economical and political actors and therefore represent the interests and concerns inside the region. These newspapers are mainly read by elderly people whom have been living in the Region for many years.

The four main newspapers are Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung, Potsdamer Neuste Nachtrichten, Niederlausitz Aktuell, Lausitzer Rundschau.

Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung is the most relevant in terms of print versions and is well distributed on the territory; the articles have generally a rather negative opinion about wind energy; negative impact on wildlife, noise, destruction of the landscape and encirclement of settlement from wind turbines are recurring themes. Furthermore opinions from persons associated with movements and initiatives again wind energy are easy to be found.

Niederlausitzer Aktuell and Lausitzer Rundschau can be labeled as in favour of wind energy news papers. These highlight the economical benefits from wind energy through job creation and income for farmers while negative impacts are mentioned to a lesser degree. The newspapers are used by the local administration to spread information about building permits or designation of areas dedicated to wind energy facilities; also wind energy investors and developers often announce informational events and openings of new wind farms.

The Potsdamer Neuste Nachtrichten adresses primarily well-educated residents of Potsdam and Berlin since the articles have a more urban perspective and focus on analyses and discussions. Regarding wind energy its position is rather neutral, the focus is on the legal framework of wind energy development, possible economical benefits and negative environmental impacts are both discussed.

We assume that the gained results from the conducted survey are influenced by the manner of the local media coverage. We surmise two factors:

  1. Media is a mirrow of the recipient's opinions. Thus a newspaper reports about the perceptions and perspectives their readers expect.
  2. Media serves as an opinion-forming instrument. It has an educational value and the reader's opinion depends on the manner and topic that is reported about.

This leads us to the conclusion that even though we cannot quantify the impact of these factors, a connection exists between what we read in the newspapers and the predominant opinion regarding wind energy. This is confirmed by a literature research on the topic. One might therefore find that the media is one of the responsible actors when it comes to the development of social acceptance of wind energy.

Rural areas: What do people in rural areas think about wind turbines?

In the given context is possible to mark a general slightly increase of social acceptance in the local population, revealed by the questionnaire results regarding relevance of renewable energy and wind energy for Germany energy production. A similar positive tendency has been found in the results referred to perception of wind energy and reaction to new planned wind turbines. Along with this positive trends is remarkable that the perception of the negative impacts of wind energy e.g. impact on landscape, noise, visual impact are shared among opponents and supporters as well; overall people felt more disturbed from wind turbines than in 2005. As consequence of this high disturbance, the preferred distance between turbines and houses should be at least of 3.000 km, for a maximum number of 10 wind turbines, however even these last statements are a positive improvement compared to 2005 survey outcome.

What is very significant, in term of room for improvement of social acceptance, is timing and quality of information in the planning process: overall residents felt themselves late and bad informed, but on the other hand, the few interviewed that felt well and early informed showed a very high acceptance of wind energy. An unforeseen verdict was the lack of relation between distance of wind turbines from households and actual social acceptance while the NYMBY-theory has been found to simplistic in order to describe the local opposition to wind energy development. Another significant conclusion is that no clear conditions capable to raise the social acceptance have been found, probably, due to the inevitability of the most significant negative impacts that made the interviewed firm in their opposition to wind energy; nevertheless is proved that direct benefits like job creation and revenue for municipality are very important to people and likely to make the idea of having wind farms in the surrounding more attractive for the residents.

Urban area: Do residents in the urban area of Potsdam support wind turbines in Brandenburg?

The urban region of Potsdam has around 160.000 citizens. The city offers historical parks with traditional castle complexes as well as newly built parks for activities and recreation. In contrast to the rural regions in Brandenburg in Potsdam are not any wind turbines build yet. This fact leads to the assumption of a higher acceptance of wind energy in Potsdam considering different aspects like age, education, location of wind turbines, gender, knowledge/information, and also green purchase behaviour. After evaluating the questionnaires it can be said that there is no difference between age, gender, and education and a presumed higher or lower acceptance. In the most cases it can be stated that further research has to be done. Except in assumed location shows that there are some spots around Potsdam where most respondents recognise wind turbines. The most chosen spot was near Nauen (48% of given answers). The strongest assertion could be made due to considering the green purchase behaviour which is higher in districts where rental prices regarding the Mietspiegel are higher. This means that wealthier districts tend to have more residents obtaining more green energy.

Comparison of urban and rural area: Is there a difference in perception towards wind turbines?

There is a reduced level of acceptance of wind energy in the rural areas investigated in this case study. This is likely to be driven by the factors “age” and “level of information”. Younger people show a higher acceptance of wind energy than more seasoned citizens, which are predominately living in rural areas whereas younger citizens mainly live in the city of Potsdam. Apparently the level of information about wind energy is higher in the city than in the rural areas being positively linked to the level of acceptance. Also the environmental-friendly behavior, determined by willingness to pay for “green energy” and by willingness to chose a “green” electricity provider, is predominant within the city. However, there is no significant correlation between environmental behavior and acceptance level of wind energy. Also the factor “distance to wind turbines” does not correlate with acceptance of wind energy.

Apart from these there are other factors influencing the acceptance level of wind energy. Further research should be done on the following factors in order to find out additional reasons for differences in level of acceptance among rural and urban areas:

  • “Place attachment”: Does the different duration of residence lead to different levels of acceptance among residents from urban and rural areas?
  • “Energy security”: Does the acceptance level increase because of wind energy being understand as an technological progress being an alternative to nuclear energy?
  • “Economic progress”: Is wind energy perceived as being able to create jobs/strengthen the economy and is therefore gaining acceptance?
  • “Perception of impacts”: Do possible impacts such as noise, shade flicker or reflection of the sun affect the level of acceptance differently in urban and rural areas?
  • “Value of landscape”: Are wind turbines having a negative effect on the value of landscape and how does it influence the acceptance level in urban and rural areas?
  • “Financial involvement”: Is personal financial investment in wind energy a recognized option having an effect on the acceptance?
  • “Eco-attitude”: Is wind energy connected to having a positive influence on climate change and therefore being more accepted?
  • “Environmental impacts”: Does the opinion on wind turbines endangering the wildlife differ among urban and rural areas and being able to explain different level of acceptance?

Continuing analysis of these additional factors would allow to better understand the acceptance gradient between urban and rural areas. Thus active measures to increase the acceptance level among citizens could be designed more accurately.

conclusions.txt · Last modified: 2017/02/02 16:56 by admin