Caveat Emptor—Communication Vital to Wind Development
by Paul Mansoor, Energy Policy Intern
Determining where wind turbines are placed, or sited, is a major component of wind energy development, and clear communication within communities, and between communities, landowners and energy developers, is vital for project success.
Before moving across the country recently, I made plans to lease an apartment.
“Is the place clean?” I asked.
“Yup.” said the landlord.
“And the unit is ready for me to move in?”
Fourteen hours of driving later, I was disappointed to be standing in a cluttered room with rampant filth and bemused roaches. My disappointment centered squarely on myself: after all, I had assumed that the landlord shared my definition of “clean.”
I should have asked more detailed questions, such as “When were the carpets last shampooed?”, “Any issues with vermin?”, or “Are the walls free from excrement?” Had I gathered more detailed, relevant information, I could have avoided the pitfalls caused by miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Just as explicitly stating my values, expectations and concerns would have saved me from a terrible apartment, communities too must be up front about their needs and expectations when confronted with an opportunity for wind development. It is essential that wind developers consider local input in the early stages of project planning. Since communities are composed of varying interests who likely view wind development differently, each concern must be addressed.
While a landowner might favor wind siting for the extra revenue, other members may be concerned over the aesthetic impacts each turbine may have. Successful wind projects require community cooperation, and for communities to agree they need the time, space, and resources to fully digest the pros and cons of wind development.
Wind developers want to build, but they have a responsibility to provide forums for community input and information exchanges, presenting unbiased, peer-reviewed information for communities to consider. Community meetings, open house events and articles in the local paper can go a long way in an effort to build consensus. Since misunderstandings or unclear assumptions between communities and developers can delay or derail wind projects, it is to their mutual benefit to engage openly and honestly with all stakeholders and concerns. Furthermore, wind developers that misrepresent or ignore facts in order to close deals will have to answer to (rightfully) outraged constituents.
Asking relevant questions and receiving honest answers is essential for communities and developers to navigate wind siting—let both sides beware.