Farmers vs. Lakers: Agriculture, amenity, and community in predicting opposition to United States wind energy development

Utility-scale wind energy is now the largest source of renewable electricity in the US. Wind energy’s continued growth remains contingent upon finding adequate resource potential and transmission capacity, along with communities willing to host turbines. While previous research on the social acceptance of wind has relied predominantly on case studies, resident surveys, and reviews of development practices and strategies, here we use a new method. We use a wind contention survey of energy professionals (n = 46) to assess the contention associated with 69 existing wind farms in four US Midwest states and identify underlying characteristics, i.e., agricultural, land-use, and demographic characteristics, that may have predisposed communities to either support or oppose wind farm development. We then use publicly available data to parameterize and model those characteristics using wind farm contention as our dependent variable. Our analysis shows that a greater proportion of production-oriented farming and fewer natural amenities in a community are associated with reduced opposition to wind farm development. Additionally, and perhaps counterintuitively, communities with a greater percentage of residents that voted Republican in the 2016 Presidential election demonstrate less opposition. Rather than negating the need for employing best practices in community engagement, stakeholder development, and participatory decision-making processes, this study can help prepare developers for the type of reception that might await them in potential host communities.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2020.101873

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