Wind energy developments can produce significant benefits – financial, environmental and social. They also produce impacts, most obviously on the local landscape.
Questions have been raised as to whether the communities which host these impacts are participating sufficiently in the benefits of developments. Compared with many other forms of development (like new housing, shopping, or commercial buildings), the benefits of wind energy developments tend to be much less concentrated in the area around the development. For example, the benefits of reduced carbon emissions are global and the contribution of wind energy to improving the security of energy supplies is nationwide.
There are also concerns over whether there is a sense in some local communities that wind developments are ‘done to them’ by outside forces which may be fueling antipathy towards proposed wind farm developments.
There are no simple answers to these questions. A study published in 2005 for the Renewables Advisory Board concluded that more significant benefits were routinely accruing to communities hosting wind farms in those EU countries which have enjoyed much higher rates of deployment than the UK (specifically Spain, Germany and Denmark). It also revealed that these benefits were the result of country-specific policies relating to local taxation, local and regional procurement and/or opportunities for local ownership. However, these policies were not obviously transferable to the UK.
The study concluded: “This overseas evidence points to a need to make meaningful community benefits more routine and systematic in UK wind power projects if future rates of deployment are to grow.”