Local Wind Energy as a New Commons: Evidence by Quantitative Geographical Analysis

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"Wind energy is a limited local resource with potential for public ownership and can hence be considered a commons if wind turbines are installed by common bodies and the produced energy is commonly accessible. Wind turbine ownership as well as the reduced environmental impact of electricity production is a potential economic benefit to communities. The cost for community, apart from installation and operation, is mainly the visual impact of wind turbines. "While many point at off shore wind installations to solve acceptance problems of land based wind energy, on shore wind energy is still more feasible. Low investment costs, proven technology and--particularly interesting for the study of the commons--a significant potential as a common good managed locally by common bodies. Protests against land based wind turbines can be considered a result of unequal distribution of ownership and visibility. Empirical evidence shows that shareholders in a wind energy project have fewer complaints about visual impact than people with no ownership. Improving management of the new common wind energy should therefore address questions of location and ownership. "The question addressed here is whether locally owned wind turbines have a future in a technology scenario where wind turbines continuously grow in size, making them less attractive to local communities for reasons of higher visibility, higher total project costs, and less easy organisation. "Quantitative geographical analyses in a raster-based geographical information system are used to model visual impact of actual turbines on local population. Possible ownership is identified by means of population density and distance functions. Finally a statistical link is established between visibility and ownership in order to identify the future chances for locally owned, economically feasible and socially accepted wind energy development. "The results indicate that the current approach of locating wind turbines may increase alienation and polarisation, while a different planning approach based on resource economics could lead to better local acceptance."
energy, economy, geography, GIS, IASC