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Executive Summary


Hating or waiting for the wind of change?

Social acceptance of wind energy developments in Brandenburg

A new wind is blowing. The importance of renewable energy is thriving in the policy agenda of many countries around the world, including the member states of the European Union. The EU is simultaneously attempting to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, increase energy security, and ease the somber legacy of the Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi disasters. In addition, challenging the effects of climate change and reducing carbon-dioxide emission, that is to say establishing a low-carbon society, has became an overarching objective.

Germany, as a European trailblazer, is emphatically ambitious regarding its own energy transmission, the “Energiewende.” As an alternative to nuclear energy, up to 60% of the total power generation is aimed to be covered by renewables by the year 2035 (EEG 2014). Out of all viable technologies, installation of wind turbines is one of the most cost-effective opportunities. Until the end of 2015, their accumulated installed capacity exceeded 45 GW in Germany; ranking third after China and the USA (GWEC 2015). Brandenburg took the second position among the federal states of Germany (DEWI 2015).

Beside strong policy-level commitment, national surveys throughout Europe tend to show widespread support of the general public (Wind Directions 2003; BWEA 2005; AEE 2015). However, enthusiasm is often gone with the wind as specific projects are proposed; Germany is not an exception. Although the vast majority of the general public supports the expansion of renewable energies, actual implementation faces considerable opposition on regional and local scales. Noise, shadow flicker, landscape degradation, and the loss of biodiversity are some of the counter arguments. Further exploring the width of this “gap” was the main motivation of our research.

This project is dualistic in nature as it is confirmatory and exploratory at the same time. By analyzing academic literature as a first step, we endeavored to identify the most significant promoting and opposing factors of social acceptance as early as possible. These previously defined factors, beyond being a “Pillar of Fire” during our initial workflow, provided a basis of comparison and at the end of the day, based on our final results, we could review them. Furthermore, we decided to designate three divergent areas in the federal state of Brandenburg for further exploration.

Residents of the planning region Havelland-Fläming already have extensive experience with wind energy. In 2005, the planning authority of the region conducted a survey in the close proximity of already existing and planned wind turbines to identify influencing factors of social acceptance. After ten years, as a part of our project, the updated survey was repeated in two of the earlier involved municipalities. “How has opinion of the locals changed? Did opponents find a silver lining?” To our knowledge, exploring the answer to these questions established the first “10-years-after” comparison of social acceptance of wind energy.

The importance of political attitude is another interesting field of research. Political leadership of the municipality Übigau-Wahrenbrück, located in the planning region Lausitz-Spreewald, strongly supports wind energy development. Several recommendations from academic literature have been considered and even a strategic collaboration has been established with a regional wind energy developer. The opinion of the residents, i.e. whether they accept wind energy as the key of future energy production, is essential for the successful transition. However, reactions were unclear as inhabitants might have seen wind energy as a threat to their cultural identity rooted in coal mining and coal-based energy production. Does the outstanding enthusiasm of the municipality fascinate the residents to form a model region for transformation? – that was the motivation of research in the second section of our project.

“City dwellers should not blow a headwind to wind farm projects as they, far away from the turbines, enjoy only the benefits of wind energy” – this was the main idea behind choosing Potsdam as our third research area. Residents of Potsdam, the largest city and the capital of the federal state of Brandenburg, have less personal experience with wind turbines as wind farms are located far away from the city. Moreover, with its shady parks and sparkling lakes, Potsdam provides outstanding recreational opportunities within its administrative borders. This further decreases the possibility of meeting wind turbines. Certain characteristics of Potsdam, e.g. younger age structure or higher educational attainment rate, could also significantly influence social acceptance. The third section of this study focused on possible urban-rural differences.

Paragraph 8: introduction of our limitations, setting the results in a discursive framework, etc.

Paragraph 9: final conclusion, the most striking findings (?)


The Masters students project

The TU-Berlin offers the Master Course Environmental Planning which is taught in English and attended by international as well as German students. This course offers in the summer term 2016 (March- August) the project course “Hating or waiting for the wind of change?” with the supervisors Prof. Johann Köppel and Lisa Odparlik from the Institute for Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning. The course deals with the research question of social acceptance of wind energy. It addresses the social acceptance of wind energy projects and analyze the promoting and opposing factors as examples of challenging energy infrastructure developments of concern in today’s planning practice.

In order to get a better understanding of that question the project course prepares a synopsis about the topic including international literature. Further the course cooperates with the Planning Region Havelland-Fläming in the municipalities Dahme/Mark and Niederer Fläming to carry out a repeated questionnaire survey of social acceptance of wind energy. To widen the research results the students also conduct a survey working on the questions of social acceptance of wind energy in a city (Potsdam) and in the municipality Uebigau-Wahrenbrueck in the planning region Lausitz-Spreewald.There the local politicians are quite supportive for wind energy projects.

The survey results will were possible be compared and analyzed. The course formes sub-groups for these specific working areas.

Overall methodology

(synopsis; three sub-groups)

(… overview chapters,

Social acceptance of wind energy

Summary of Synopsis


Project research: Three case studies

Havelland-Fläming: Dahme/Mark and Niederer Fläming


The project was triggered and initiated as a result of the fact that the Regionale Planungsgemeinschaft Havelland Fläming (regional planning association) ask to conduct a survey about the social acceptance in this area. In 2005, a survey has been conducted in two municipalities, which are located within the region. Consequently, this poses an incentive for a current survey to assess and analyse what has changed over 10 years about the social acceptance. Moreover, the results of Havelland-Fläming are to be compared with the other subgroups of Lausitz-Spreewald and Potsdam to evaluate the stated hypotheses by a synthesis of the results.

Area description

The region Havelland-Fläming compromises around 6,800 km² and consists of the counties Havelland, Potsdam-Mittelmark and Teltow-Fläming as well as the “kreisfreien Städte” Potsdam and Brandenburg an der Havel. The previous survey was conducted in the municipalities Dahme/Mark and Niederer Fläming that belong to the county Teltow-Fläming. Dahme/Mark covers 162 km² and has a population about 5,253 inhabitants while Niedere Fläming compromises 185 km² with 3,186 inhabitants (references).

Within the regional plan for 2020, which was approved in June 2015, the usage of wind energy was stipulated among others in these municipalities. They both pose suitable areas for wind energy, including potential area for relocation of wind turbines (Regionalplan 2020). In addition, they are reservation areas for wind energy. In Dahme/Mark there are currently 50 wind facilities located and 10 are planned (RPHV 2016). In Niederer Fläming exist 57 wind facilities and three more are planned (ebd.).


The analysis of the social acceptance in the region Havelland-Fläming was accomplished by a survey in the form of questionnaires. Thereby the questionnaire was adopted from the previous one of 2005, with small changes. The results are to evaluate the group’s hypotheses about social acceptance of wind energy.


[…] 1. The acceptance of wind energy in the analyzed region has changed 1a. due to the growing development of wind energy in the area 1b. due to a changed information level in the general public

Method of Sampling

In 2005, the participants of the survey were chosen randomly, supported by the residents' registration office. The questionnaires were distributed to the letterboxes of the households. In total 1,115 inhabitants participated in the whole region, 291 in Dahme/Mark and 213 in Niedere Fläming. The regional planning association then collected the questionnaires from each household to analyse the results. A frequency analysis was applied to show the mood of the municipalities and the whole region. The current method of sampling corresponds to the previous survey. The questionnaires were distributed to the same households to achieve an exact comparison of the results for the municipalities. The participants had a period of two weeks to fill in the questionnaires.


Climate change and the German energy transition give the incentive to invest in renewable energy. However, the acceptance of renewable energy, especially of wind turbines, differs among society. Several positive and negative factors can lead to either a high acceptance of wind turbines or it can lead to a low social acceptance of wind turbines.

Data availability and data reliability can be great obstacles for assessing the social acceptance of wind turbines in a particular region. This analysis conducted a qualitative and quantitative survey in the area of Potsdam on various days in the month of June in 2016. The aim of this study is the analysis of several hypotheses. These hypotheses can be summed up as follows:

  • The acceptance of wind energy is higher in urban areas than in rural areas
  • A higher acceptance among young people
  • A higher acceptance among more educated people
  • Do people feel disturbed by wind power plants when spending leisure time outside in the area of Potsdam?
  • Do people share the opinion of cities being able to contribute to the energy transition? If yes, how?
  • What matters when choosing the electricity supplier?
  • Are people better or worse informed about energy sources in Potsdam than in rural areas? If yes, can this be linked to their level of acceptance?
  • Is the occupation linked to their acceptance of wind energy?

The following methodology will describe the study area and the general approach of the study.

The city Potsdam is the center of this study. Potsdam is the capital of the German federal state of Brandenburg and adjoins to Berlin. The map in Figure 1 illustrates the study area and shows the fourteen districts of Potsdam.

Übersicht Potsdam
Figure 1

Approximately 160.000 citizens live in Potsdam. In addition, around 10.000 of these citizens are employed in scientific institutions and almost 25.000 students are enrolled at the “University of Potsdam, University of Applied Science, College for Sport and Management, Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF and the Hoffbauer Vocational Academy” (Landeshauptstadt Potsdam, 2016a). It offers historical parks with traditional castle complexes as well as many recreational sites such as Freundschaftsinsel and the Volkspark. Furthermore, the region has various water bodies which account for almost 10 percent. Forests can be found in all parts of the town. Almost 50 percent of Potsdam’s urban area is environmentally protected by law (Landeshauptstadt Potsdam, 2016b).


A citizen survey on the acceptance of wind energy on the basis of face-to-face interviews was conducted in the city of Potsdam. The locations for the survey were selected after analyzing where within the city people are spending spare time or are most likely to be in a waiting position. By selecting these locations a higher response and willingness to take part in the survey was expected. Locations like parks, playgrounds?, markets or sports-grounds turned out to be most suitable to conduct the interviews. The interviews were conducted in groups of two students in June 2016.

Before conducting the final survey a pre-test of different versions of questionnaires was done in order to analyze the respondents’ reactions and then to decide upon the final selection of questions. Two versions of questionnaire were tested – a short version with 15 and a long version with 17 questions. Over a short period of time from 03.06.2016 to 17.06.2016 the survey with four pages and 17 questions took place on the streets of Potsdam. The interviewers split up in groups of two and spread over selected locations in Potsdam:

Table 1:

By spontaneously picking potential respondents at the chosen locations a random selection of the interviewee was made. Subsequently a questionnaire of 17 questions was compiled (combined of 14 closed and 3 open questions), which is based on a questionnaire from a previous survey on acceptance of wind energy in the Region of Havelland-Fläming. In order to compare the outcome of both surveys – in Potsdam and in Havelland-Fläming a number of X questions from the Havelland-Fläming questionnaire was kept. To test additional hypothesis adapted to the urban study area of Potsdam a selection of X newly developed questions was added.


Background of the region

The Municipality Uebigau-Wahrenbrück is a small rural area with around 6000 inhabitants. Its is located in the south-west of Brandenburg and part of the county Elbe-Elster. The area of the municipality, which in total has a size of 13.491 ha, is mostly used for agriculture activities (8.672 ha) and further largely covered by forest (3.468 ha).

The rarely settled area of the municipality is divided into 21 subdistricts, which are the following: Bahnsdorf, Beiersdorf, Beutersitz, Bönitz, Bomsdorf, Domsdorf, Drasdo, Kauxdorf, Langennaundorf, Marxdorf, München, Neudeck, Prestewitz, Rothstein, Saxdorf, Uebigau, Wahrenbrück, Wiederau, Wildgrube, Winkel and Zinsdorf. These subdistricts differ in their size and amount of inhabitants, the largest of these subdistricts are Uebigau and Wahrenbrück.

The coalmining within the municipality Uebigau-Wahrenbrück, which started in the 19th century and stopped in the end of the 20th century, had a high influence on the regional development. Still today you can see remaining sites from that historical development. For instance the subdistricts Domsdorf, Beutersitz and Wildgrube throughout a regional coalmine and related factories like briquetting plants show a high historical influence of coalmining.

However, today no active coalmining takes place within the municipality and the historical coalmining sites just play a role within tourism. Therefore, it differs from the situation of the “neighborhood” region in the south-east of Brandenburg, which contains the “Lausitz Braunkohlerevier (Lausitz brown coal field)”, in which still coal-mining on a high scale takes place.

Nowadays the municipality like the county Elbe-Elster faces several problems. Though Uebigau-Wahrenbrück with 41 inhabitants per km² it is rarely settled and further suffers from a negative demographic trend.

Despite the problems which the municipality faces, the municipality Uebigau-Wahrenbrück use renewable energy as an opportunity for development. Throughout the engagement of the Uebigau-Wahrenbrück the municipality became an important stakeholder for the regional renewable energy development. Therefore, it can be said that the region continues with its tradition as a region of energy production and further tries to adapt to today’s challenges.

It is also notable that the municipality Uebigau-Wahrenbrück is engaging in several research cooperation. These projects are for instance “RePro”, which focus on the use of regional resources and the “w3 regional energy spatial politics”. A project which focus on the research on development, resistance and wellbeing aspects of regional energy within spatial politics.

Despite its high engagement in research and other cooperation’s the municipality further shows a high production of renewable energy. Though in 2010 the electricity demand of the municipality was not only covered by the renewable energy production within the region, but was about 424% of their own demand. The overall production in this year was 91 GWh, from which 70 GWh could be exported to other regions. Further it can be said that the municipality contains several types of renewable energy sources, which are photovoltaic, biomass as well as solar heat. The largest and most important energy source however is wind energy, which already had a capacity of 85 GWh in 2010.

Today the municipality already has 32 installed wind turbines and further there is an ongoing approval process for another 14 wind turbines and another 3 are in a construction process . These wind turbines are mostly concentrated in the two wind parks of the municipality.

The future development of wind energy in the region is rather unclear, however the climate protection concept of Uebigau-Wahrenbrück, which was published in 2013 provides scenarios about the potential future development of wind energy.

All these scenarios are based on the year 2010 and estimate the technical and spatial development potentials for the renewable energy production in the year 2030. While the “trend” scenario, predicts no further increase of the current wind energy capacity, the ambitious scenario states that an increase up to 226 GWh would be possible, even though it still would need to be weighted against other public interest.

Taking the current status of the wind energy production as well as the potential development capacity into account the importance of wind energy for the municipality is highlighted once more.

Research question

What are the relevant factors behind possible differences in social acceptance of wind energy between the municipalities in the planning region Havelland-Fläming and Lausitz-Spreewald?

Among the possible outcomes, four hypotheses were identified as crucial regarding either contrasts or similarities between the regions. They will be at the centre of the analysis and further discussions.

1. The local authorities position in favour of wind developments may contribute to residents’ social acceptance of it. Moreover, aspects of public participation may be relevant. For instance, if the citizens agree with the energy policy in the municipality; if they feel themselves informed by the administration and if they trust it, if they perceive their opinion as been taken in consideration during the decisive process, whether benefits from wind energy are until now equally shared.

2. The history of energy production in the region may contribute to their acceptance either positively or negatively. Citizens may see wind energy as changing their cultural identity of coal-based energy producers while others may see it as the evolution to a sustainable energy production, or others may see the need for replace coal-based energy production, but perhaps preferring other sources rather than wind energy.

3. Other relevant factors, for instance perceived health impacts, may naturally rise from the survey as the most frequently mentioned or the most contributing for the local’s opinion, showing that the preliminary assumptions are not relevant as expected.

4. There is no significant difference in acceptance level between those regions. Nevertheless, the contributing factors still can be compared whether they are the same among the regions or not, as well with case studies worldwide.


Selection of the research area: The municipality Uebigau-Wahrenbrueck in the planning region Lausitz-Spreewald has been selected as research area, since it is a representative case for the following particular elements. These elements differ from the other research regions Havelland-Fläming and Potsdam.

  • Development of a Regional Energy Concept: Lausitz-Spreewald is a centre of renewable energy production in particular from wind and solar source. In the last two centuries brown coal production was a fundamental activity for the whole region.
  • Local authorities support climate protection and participated in a climate protection project (ended 2013) supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB): The administration of the municipality Uebigau-Wahrenbrueck is committed to different green initiatives (e.g. conversion of energy production, climate management plan) and supports wind energy development.
  • Designated areas for wind development: New wind farms have been planned within/or at the borders of the municipality and close to settlements.

Technique of data collection: In order to receive detailed quantitative data a self-completion questionnaire survey is conducted. To compare the results with the results from the municipalities Dahme/Mark and Niederer Fläming a similar technique of data collection is chosen. Accordingly, the Uebigau-Wahrenbrueck questionnaire contains almost all questions from the Havelland-Flaming questionnaire. A few questions are added to cover significant factors of social acceptance of wind energy, identified in the literature review (see synopsis). Further, comparative questions are added for the confirmation of the hypothesis. As a last step a pre-test of the questionnaire is conducted in order to identify any possible error or difficulties answering the questionnaire. After the pre-test the questionnaire was shortened. The questionnaire is delivered in an enclosed envelope accompanied by an introduction letter to the selected addresses. The introduction letter, signed by the local major, presents a rather positive attitude towards wind energy production in the municipality. A return envelope with postage covered by the project was enclosed, addressed to the TU-Berlin. The envelopes were delivered into the mailboxes by the students on 10.06.2016. The householdes are asked the turn it until 18.06.2016. Meanwhile, an article in the regional newspaper Niederlausitz-Aktuell and Lausitzer Rundschau (not confirmed yet) and on the internet page of the municipality Ubigau-Wahrenbrueck about the survey is published. These articles aim to make the population aware about the survey. It is assumed that these publicity results in a high rate of participants in the survey.

Selection of Households (Sampling): A systematic random sampling of k =10, beginning with a randomly chosen point, was chosen for the inhabitants of the municipality Uebigau-Wahrenbrück. Similar sampling has been used for the survey in Darme/Mark und Niederer Fläming. It is assumed that there is no tendency or periodicity in the surveying area which can generate bias. The sampling is carried out by the local registry following the provided instructions. 216 addresses are generated.





Overall discussion and comparison of the case study results

Project conclusion


(Harvard reference style; at the end of each page, link, references at the end of every side)

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