Groupe d’information sur les éoliennes (La Roche-en-Ardenne)
Dossier sur les coûts et les nuisances des éoliennes
Landscape capacity and social attitudes towards wind energy projects
in Belgium, 2006-2009, Belgian Science Policy – Science for a
sustainable development, Promotors: A. Van Rompaey, KULeuven. 1)
Physical and Regional Geography Research Group – K.U.Leuven- S.
Schmitz, ULg - Ch. Kesteloot, KULeuven. 2) Social and Economic
Geography Research Group – Université de Liège.
Duration of the project: 15/12/2006 – 31/01/2009, Contract number: SD/EN/01A, Budget: 361.530 €.
Comments on the report: Landscape capacity and social attitudes towards wind energy projects in Belgium, 2006-2009
A few sentences of the report are reproduced here (in green) before being analyzed. Our comments are in red.
Most literature analyses annoyance from a technical point of view. The LACSAWEP project focuses on consequences of annoyance for the development of social attitudes. Whatever the nuisance, the study seems to be concerned only by the non technical causes (assumed to be irrational) that motivate the local people to protest.
1.4. Development of social attitudes towards local wind projects (page 16).
It is widely recognized that public acceptance of local wind projects is problematic in a lot of cases all over the world. From the 1970s until now, many international opinion polls show a very strong public support for renewable energy sources at the general level. (This sentence introduces a confusion of “renewable energy” with “wind energy”.
In contradiction with this finding, many local projects suffer from a lack of acceptance by local residents. In a lot of cases strong resistance in the form of local protest actions is taking place.
… They can be classified in two broad groups: (physical and symbolical) annoyance factors and (institutional and local) process factors. These two types of classifications are unrelated to the nuisances. The principal problem: the heavy economic impact of windpower is ignored in the report.
A first obvious set of factors that influence the attitudes towards
local wind projects are annoyance factors. The most common types of
annoyance are noise, flickering shadow, visual intrusion, perceived
unreliability, high cost and impact upon birds and wildlife.
To negate theses annoyances, the study just proclaim the following affirmations without justifications). Although noise used to be a factual problem for many residents living near wind turbines, newer technologies have now in many cases reduced this problem to quasi-non-existing (!).
When a sufficient distance is held, factual noise annoyance is mostly very little to inexistent. … Therefore, with a reasonable distance to the dwellings, noise should not be a factual problem (!).
As far as perceived noise annoyance is concerned, the visual impact should be investigated, rather than the problem of noise itself. (This switching of topics replaces an annoying problem by another one which is sufficiently vague to prevent serious studies).
A second annoyance factor is flickering shadow. As with noise, this sort of annoyance can be easily neutralized (No explanations given for this magical neutralization!).
In our view, the problems of high cost and unreliability have a lot to do with discourse production and reception. (This avoids any technical discussion that would show that the onshore wind energy has no economical justification. Indeed, the system “onshore wind turbines + backup” may consume more energy than the total produced.)
The problem of the impact upon birds and wildlife is also significant in that it is used by many opponents as an extra argument to protest. Nevertheless, this argument is mostly a secondary one – an extra ace up their sleeve. (There are no justifications why this argument is suppressed. Does the logic used here allow to automatically delete secondary arguments?)
The last annoyance factor that is discussed is the one that is most highly debated, and which seems to be the most influencing factor on social attitudes towards local wind projects: visual intrusion. The change of a rural zone suitable for living into an awful industrial zone is transformed into another topic by calling it “visual intrusion”.
… The value of the landscape is by far the dominant factor in explaining why some are opposed to wind power implementation and why others support it. (Lobbies insert sentences to make believe that there are people who support their claim. Same remark applies for the following sentences).
… It is also found that military domains and industrial areas are overall accepted for wind turbine placement. Also along the side of line-structures like rivers, highways… wind turbines are mostly accepted – as long as the visual factor is considered.
… Smaller wind farms are more accepted than large ones. This is contradictory to the trend in policy that favours large scale wind farms. (This is in line with the fact that “the less there are wind turbines, the best”).
… The shift from traditional to wind energy is a shift from centralized, invisible energy production to a visible, decentralized production of energy that literally confronts us at the local level. 5000 giant wind turbines (3 MW, 4.8 GWh, 18% load factor) are needed to replace a single nuclear plant (3 reactors, 3 GW, 24000 GWh) or 6 thermal generating plants.
… The problem of visual intrusion is cultural (It is rather an effect obvious for anyone who likes preserved nature, but the cultural problem is that the acculturated promoters do not enjoy normal life). The shift to a local and visual production of energy reminds people of their own needs of energy – a consciousness that diminished over the years because large-scale centralized energy production was apparent. (A negation is missing? How can a centralized plant be less visible than 5000 turbines?)
… The upcoming culture of decentralized energy production will also need a change of mind, to an awareness of the visual necessity of energy production. (The study promotes a national communication campaign to make believe that wind energy is required to save the planet against climate change, a statement which is disputable).
The annoyance called “High cost” is never discussed in the study. Nowhere can the reader discover that electricity from wind turbines is at least 3 times more expensive than from fossil or nuclear energy. No estimation of the loss of values of properties near the wind parks is given.
On the point of symbolic visibility, other factors like communication and discourses become relevant. (The same problem was faced by the Soviets who wonder why the Russian citizens did not understand the advantages of communism. The Soviets had invented propaganda to convince them and the political ecology is now using the same method).
The study searches for “noble causes” to justify what cannot be justified. A symbolic aspect sees wind turbines as the visual expression of a higher concept or idea. The visual evaluation people make is clearly shaped by different factors, and can be equally positive, when higher concepts like ecological sustainability, or decentralized energy production, are working.
A second distinct and important group of factors which influence the attitudes towards local wind projects are the (institutional and local) process factors.
When local wind projects are planned, a lot of stakeholders are showing up, and they all need to be satisfied in a way. Therefore the top-down institutional planning system must be converted to a decentralized, bottom-up, collaborative, fair and trustful system that is taking all stakeholders into account. (If you cannot succeed, change the rules).
… Local ownership (or a cooperative) guarantees local economic benefit, which in turn lessens the local protest. But even more general, the contradiction between the high general public acceptance of wind energy and the low acceptance of local wind projects points to a democratic deficit, where a minority of opponents controls the outcome of a wind project. This democratic deficit can only be countered by a change in the institutional process from confrontation to collaboration. (In practice, one observes a change from democracy to a totalitarian method, as in Wallonia).
The collaborative approach shifts the emphasis from competitive interest into consensus building, and tries to waken the silent majority to participate in decision making. There is need for procedural and distributive justice and equity in the elaboration of wind projects. A perceived lack of fairness in the process or outcome is in many cases fostering protest towards the whole project. (It may be that it is not only perceived, but observed, although corruption cannot usually be proven).
The NYMBY explanation “attributes” (egoistic) motives to people. In this perspective, the explanation leaves the cause of the problem unexplained. … The NYMBY-concept leads to the conclusion that the residents don’t have strong intentions to shift the burden to others, but they consider it unfair that others, or the decision makers, shift the burden to them. In this perspective, it is not selfish reasons or other personality traits which cause the problem, but it is the decision making process and particularly the perceived fairness of it. (It turned out that the initial tactic of wind lobbies to accuse the local people of being egoistic had just exacerbated the opposition and is not anymore suggested).
The researchers have reproduced some landscapes and put wind turbines on it. Then, they have asked subjects how they assess the landscape before and after this transformation. The photographs cover a very large angle: 120°. Three photos are sufficient to cover the whole panorama. With these unusual views, many interviewed subjects did not notice that turbines were inserted into the landscape presented. The turbines cannot be shown rotating but they are then more salient features even at several kilometres).
We show two of these photos to explain how they give an unrealistic view of an assumed reality. To be in a normal point of view, each picture should be presented at 1 m distance and be 4 m large. In the picture presented, the closest turbine (150 m tall) is approximately located at 600 m from the viewer. This complex presentation hides how strongly wind turbines destroy any landscape. Various other deceptive techniques are used by other wind promoters.
The study seems to be written by a wind lobby. The report is more similar to a publicity advertisement than to a scientific study. Public scientific integrity had disappeared to sell wind turbines.
We do not understand how some universities dare to publish a study with some sections based on such skewed methods.