Protests against the establishment of wind farms in rural areas of Australia receive substantial media coverage, but a new study by the CSIRO claims the actual number of people living in these regions who are opposed to wind farm development is a minority.
CSIRO analysis of 49 articles from 19 newspapers in the second half of 2010 found more reasons for wind farm opposition than support, with the most common reasons for opposition given being aesthetics, noise impacts and poor consultation.
The CSIRO study report entitled “Acceptance of rural wind farms in Australia: a snapshot” found support for the development of wind farms is stronger than may be assumed from media coverage as some rural residents do not seek media attention or political engagement to express their support.
The CSIRO’s findings are a result of a study of 9 wind farm projects, with the organisation conducting interviews with developers, councils, landowners hosting wind turbines, community opponents and supporters of the projects related to each.
Important factors identified in relation to opposition were underlying cultural or ideological concerns, including the view of rural communities being politically neglected by urban centres, commitment to an anti-development stance, and opposition to a ‘green’ or ‘climate action’ political agenda.
While wind farm supporters may be a relatively silent majority, the study findings suggest community acceptance of wind farms could be further increased by wind energy developers adopting a ‘Social Licence to Operate’ approach – making an effort to better engage the local community; before, during and after construction.
According to the report, most publicly opposing local wind farms spoke as self-appointed representatives of others; usually hobby farmers with small land holdings, former professionals, and/or members of Landscape Guardian groups; the latter whose membership have reportedly opposed over half of all wind farm development proposals.
A summary of the CSIRO’s report can be viewed here (PDF)