The planning of renewable energy infrastructure has proven highly controversial across many countries. We critically examine the lessons that can be learned from research investigating the causes of controversy over wind turbines. The review focuses on a specific, but often highly controversial, component of planning practice: environmental and social appraisal. The review advances understandings of the reasons for contestation over the social impacts of wind turbines; the basis and legitimacy of plurality and contestation; and, the biases that tend to underpin understandings of the role and functioning of participation in appraisal. A typology of actors' attitudes to wind energy is employed to elucidate the implications of our review for appraisal practices. We conclude that a broader understanding of the societal purposes of public participation needs to be integrated into appraisal theory and practice, including an acceptance of the legitimacy of antagonism and dissent and its value in fostering social learning.