Article – Opposition “overblown”? Community response to wind energy siting in the Western United States

Giordono, L. S., Boudet, H. S., Karmazina, A., Taylor, C. L., & Steel, B. S. (2018). Opposition “overblown”? Community response to wind energy siting in the Western United States. Energy Research & Social Science.
Much of the literature on local opposition to wind development is based on small-N case studies of controversial cases. This focus has led to an emphasis on the so-called “social gap” between positive general attitudes toward renewable energy development and local resistance to actual proposals. Instead, we conduct a fuzzy set/Qualitative Comparative Analysis of 53 proposals for wind energy development in the Western United States to better understand both the amount of local opposition and the factors and processes that shape it. We find that while some level of local opposition to wind proposals is not rare, it is typically restricted to more benign activities that require few resources and take place in standard institutional settings. Drawing on insights from the literatures on social acceptance of wind and social movement studies, we show that proximity to protected areas, political opportunity, and opponents’ framing of the risks posed by wind development are important factors in driving community resistance. These findings suggest that resistance to wind energy proposals is more likely to be shaped by existing processes for public participation than to shape them, and that calls to streamline regulatory processes to expedite development due to local resistance may be premature.

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