People vs. Windfarms? To what extent are strategies for public participation used to foster social acceptance in the European wind energy sector?
Wind is the most mature of the existing Renewable Energy Technologies and it is expected to play a fundamental role towards the transition to a sustainable energy system. European citizens are generally in favour of wind energy; however, on a local level windfarm developers often have to deal with opposition. Thus, finding strategies to support constructive discussions around wind farms is crucial for the further diffusion of wind energy. To contribute to this process this paper maps the status quo of public participation strategies in the European wind sector. More specifically, it summarizes the findings from an expert survey: 207 questionnaires from 13 European countries were collected filled in by representatives from relevant administrative bodies, project developers, cooperatives active in wind farm development, environmental organisations, financial institutions and others active in the field of wind farm development. We find a high prevalence of social acceptance issues in the sample as the majority of study participants has experienced stops or at least delays of projects due to a lack of social acceptance. Concerning public participation we see that it is very often common in wind energy project development to engage in public participation and that these activities often exceed legal requirements. Although public participation is frequent in wind energy projects, many organisations involved do not have a standard procedure to deal with it and guidelines and other advice giving documents are often not known nor used. The main barrier to apply this knowledge seems to be the difficulty to transfer it to the specific conditions of a project.