Exploring community acceptance of rural wind farms in Australia: a snapshot

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Hall, Nina; Ashworth, Peta; Shaw, Hylton



82 p.

The CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions by providing sustainable, efficient, cost effective energy solutions for electricity supply and transport. The current policy context in which the Flagship works includes the Australian Government’s amended Renewable Energy Target (RET), which seeks to provide 20 percent of Australia’s electricity generation from renewable energy sources by 2020. Wind-generated electricity is a proven renewable energy technology with excellent resources in Australia. It is anticipated that wind could contribute the early majority of renewable energy generated for the large-scale RET. However, wind farms uptake and installation is currently slow due to the low cost and volatility of the Renewable Energy Certificate price, regulatory factors as well as high levels of community resistance. This resistance presents a ‘social gap’ between the documented high levels of support for wind farm development and the lower success rate and cited opposition in the media to wind farm development proposals. Despite the prevalence of popular media articles, there is minimal academic examination of this situation. This report provides new, academically-sound research that analyses community acceptance of Australian wind farms from a variety of stakeholder perspectives. The research used a range of methods, including a literature and information review, a media analysis of newspaper articles, case studies and semi-structured qualitative interviews with a range of stakeholders with an interest in wind. The media analysis of 49 articles from 19 popular newspapers in the second half of 2010 found more reasons for wind farm opposition were reported than reasons for support. The most often-cited reasons for rejecting wind farms were landscape change and visual amenity impacts, noise impacts, and poor consultation. The most commonly-cited reasons for supporting rural wind farms was as a means to take action against human-induced climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, job creation, and the benefits of community-scale or managed wind farms. Nine wind farms were selected as case studies. Each case was intentionally selected to represent wind farms in the three states of greatest wind resources (NSW, Victoria and South Australia), in various stages of development (operational, under construction, proposed and rejected), and a range of sizes (below and above 30MW). When compared, common themes arose despite the different geographical, historical and developmental characteristics of each wind project. There were also no obvious differences between the experiences of wind farms in each state, even though there are a variety of state-based renewable energy policies. There were, however, differences depending on the size of the wind farm, when comparing community-scale (often less than 30MW) and industrial scale wind farms. Current Australian wind policies, incorporating economic costs and market structures, cover both large, industrial-scale and community-scale wind farms, despite the different investment costs and rates of return. The literature and information review and interviews with wind farm stakeholders drew out both a diversity and similarity of views: o Wind company representatives were supportive of wind power, but many businesses were vulnerable to community acceptance issues. Representatives of community-scale wind farms were frustrated by policies that were not appropriate, affordable or amendable to their developments. o Local government representatives held mixed views on wind farms. Some welcomed the resulting regional development, while others observed the significant angst caused by wind farm proposals. Several representatives sought a greater role for local government to manage and approve wind farm development approvals. o Turbine hosts, all of whom were farmers in this sample, supported wind farms and generally did not hold concerns abou



wind farms; community acceptance; social licence to operate

Sociology and Social Studies of Science and Technology

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This report has been placed on the CSIRO repository and may be made available to persons outside of CSIRO for non commercial purposes, in its entirety and without deletion of disclaimers and copyright information.


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Hall, Nina; Ashworth, Peta; Shaw, Hylton. Exploring community acceptance of rural wind farms in Australia: a snapshot. Canberra: CSIRO; 2012. csiro:EP117743. https://doi.org/10.4225/08/584ee83bb6373

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