The purpose of the proposed project is to create toolkits for dialogue (e.g., a rapid assessment survey) for potential turbine "host" communities and wind energy developers to improve turbine facility siting by better: 1) addressing equity in benefits negotiations and; 2) minimizing intra-community conflict. Concern about inequitable financial benefits and unacceptable community conflict were key problems identified in two recent studies we published on predicting support for turbines in Ontario wind turbine communities.
Governments are turning to turbine generated electricity to reduce pollution including CO2 emissions and increase energy sovereignty. Policies such as the Ontario government's Green Energy Act have been hailed for dramatically increasing wind energy capacity. Yet, this has often come at the cost of considerable turmoil in rural communities. For example, several municipal councils have passed resolutions telling the Ontario Government that they are officially "unwilling hosts" for wind turbines. Amid concerns about the health impacts of turbines, there are currently studies underway to address the issue of noise and health impacts (e.g., Health Canada ).
Yet there are other related issues that are equally deserving of research and policy attention including: facility siting, fairness in the distribution of costs and benefits, and community conflict. For example, the Ontario wind turbine facility siting system has allowed developers to negotiate individual lease agreements with landowners ($8K or more/yr/turbine), but potentially offer neighbours nothing. Though the lessee has the turbine physically placed on their land, their neighbour also has to live with the same negative externalities like noise, vibration, and potential property value loss.
The research will be carried out in two phases – data collection and analysis (the study) and toolkit creation and dissemination. The work will be carried out in four communities, two in Ontario and two in Nova Scotia.
The study will comprise two key research methods – in-depth qualitative interviews and a follow-up quantitative survey with three key stakeholder groups: residents within 2km of actual/proposed turbines, the turbine developers and their agents (consultants) as well as municipal politicians and municipal staff. The 2km distance is one that is commonly advocated by concerned citizens groups as a reasonable distance to protect against the negative impacts of turbines.
The in-depth interviews will allow the stakeholders to candidly express all their views on turbines and turbine siting.
The interpretation of the interviews will be used to build questions that will subsequently be assessed by participants using closed-ended survey rating (Likert) scales to get a sense of who prefers what and why. The survey data analysis will focus on which aspects of turbine siting are most preferred, and the variables that predict support for turbines and key siting models; towards the overall goal of developing the dialogue toolkits.
In the second phase of the study, the findings from the interview and survey analyses will be combined to build the toolkits, as well as validate and disseminate them. At the end of the project we will get all the stakeholder groups in each case community together to outline the findings and share ideas about their use.
There will be at least three concrete outcomes from this project: the dialogue toolkit findings report, an interactive website, and peer-reviewed publications of the study findings. The community toolkit will provide residents in new potential host communities information to facilitate negotiating fair benefits agreements in the local context and strategies to avoid harmful intra-community conflict. The point of the toolkit is to generate some collective understandings of what residents want and fear. This website is for up-to-date information on our studies and their dissemination. The peer-reviewed publications are for the use of all stakeholders for justifying evidence-based actions regarding turbine siting and policy.