4  Social Acceptance.


In general, opinion polls in countries like the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and the UK show that more than 70 percent of the population is in favour of using more wind energy ([xxvi], [xxvii], [xxviii] and [xxix]). In the UK, a summary of opinion surveys indicates that 8 out of 10 support local wind projects[xxx], but no specific opinion surveys concerning offshore wind energy seem to be available.


In Germany, as mentioned in Section 2.4, a study on effects from on- and offshore wind farms on tourism (i.e. not the local population as such) indicated that offshore wind farms would generally be accepted by tourists as long as the farms were not situated too near the coastline.


The responses from the CA members received on social acceptance of offshore wind power at first sight indicate that there is no absolute clear conclusion as to the social acceptance of offshore wind power compared to onshore. Nevertheless, some hypotheses can be drawn from the responses received, and an analysis of the acceptance dilemma of onshore wind power applicable to offshore locations shows that:

  public acceptance in general is high but falls when it comes to our own living surroundings,

  coastal areas are more sensitive to change because of great recreational values,

  local acceptance seems to increase after the installation of turbines, provided that no disturbances are experienced,

  public acceptance increases with the level of information and economic involvement.


Social acceptance of wind power has often been characterized by a NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome. The NIMBY-explanation is however a too simplistic way of explaining all variables involved when determining the general and local public acceptance of a specific wind power development. This means that the question of social acceptance really has many components: e.g. the general attitude towards offshore wind power in the population as a whole, the acceptance in the population who will experience the local impacts, the conflict management strategies and economic involvement.


One possible way of overcoming the dilemmas is presented by the Danish case for onshore wind power. Here most wind turbines are owned by locally established private cooperatives. This appears to improve the social acceptance, as it is, generally speaking, the same people who experience the impacts that receive the financial benefits.

For the Middelgrunden Wind Farm outside Copenhagen, it is very probable that the project could not have been carried out without involvement of the local public in this way.


In Denmark, most of the offshore projects will be owned by the utilities, but it is still a political priority to encourage the formation of cooperatively owned offshore wind power farms as well. It is probable that the next generation of offshore farms (Horns Rev, Rdsand, Ls, Om Stlgrunde and Gedser) will be partly publicly owned, giving the possibility to test different ownership models[xxxi]. The project will be managed by the Danish Association of Wind Turbine Owners, but has not been politically approved at the time of writing.


This "Danish model" is, however, rather unique, and for most other countries the offshore wind farms are either owned by utilities or private consortiums, thus only enabling indirect financial benefits and influence for the local citizens.


A broad-based participation in the implementation and decision process is used in a Swedish offshore project in Kalmarsund conducted by Vattenfall. This is a form of conflict management, which extends the group of actors involved in the decision process, increases transparency and promotes negotiations and discussions. An important factor is thus, who is involved in the decision process and in what form can different actors participate and represent their interest in the planning process. The result of this approach is so far that the project has conducted a management of dissent instead of putting trust in a fictitious consent. The importance of this type of conflict management seems to correlate with the amount of realised and planned projects in a demarcated and clearly defined geographical area suitable for offshore wind power.


One strategy concerning public involvement is to assume that the local public opposition can be overcome by rational decisions made by experts, and people will eventually get used to change. Another strategy is to directly involve the local public early in the planning phase, and incorporate the recommendations into the project at an early state. The purpose of this strategy is to give the local population a motivation to accept change by for example giving them a say in the planning of the project. The "risk" of this strategy is that the public debate generates so much awareness and thus delays the whole planning procedure. A delay, which on the other hand is unavoidable when permits are appealed against and projects face the threat of never being realised.


Presenting a wind power plan requires a sense of timing. In some cases, depending on the size of the project, it might be worthwhile to allow a certain period of adjustment. A large wind farm mayin some cases be developed sequentially, which makes adjustments easier if people express misgivings. Such adjustments manifest the flexibility and reversible quality of wind power developments. Just because a wind farm can be erected quickly, does not necessarily mean it should be. [21]


Finally it should be mentioned that the social acceptance of offshore wind, as discussed in the introduction of this report, may expect to increase significantly, when people are aware of the positive impacts of offshore wind energy and when they realize the alternatives. The fact that oil and gas reserves are very limited, that other sources of energy are not only much more polluting but also more expensive when externalities are accounted for [xxxii], should be stressed in the public dialogue.


General conclusions :


According to experiences from the offshore farms already established it can be said that:

  the degree of involvement of the local population in the planning phase influences the public acceptance.

  the procedures on public involvement, hearings etc., vary considerably among countries and may even vary among regions within the same country.

  there is to day no clear overview on the results of different strategies for public involvement and conflict management.


The issue of public acceptance deserves to be studied in more details, e.g. through a monitoring programme focussing on public acceptance before and after the installation of an offshore wind farm in relation to the degree of public involvement and active conflict management.


1. Introduction
2. Environmental Impact
3. Conflicts of Interest
4. Social Acceptance
5. National Policies
6. Ongoing Research Projects
7. General Conclusions
8. Selected References
9. Appendix