Although there is a clear positive link between community wind energy (CWE) projects and social acceptance, there is still empirical and conceptual ambiguity concerning the details of why. To fill this gap, we revisit foundational papers in this field and then, focusing on empirical case studies between 2010 and 2018 (n = 15), trace how recent research has engaged with existing conceptual frameworks. Most empirical researchers verify the importance of the two key dimensions defined by Walker & Devine-Wright : process and outcome, and then relate this to procedural justice and distributive justice. Meanwhile, the core concept of “community” has been deployed, in both practice and research, in so many different and sometimes ambiguous ways that it remains difficult to assert if, and how, community-based renewable energy policy and siting practice produces high levels of local community acceptance. We suggest that parsing out the scale of investment in wind energy projects and the local historical context of energy transitions add clarity to the Walker & Devine-Wright framework as it relates to CWE; providing important conceptual nuance for guiding policy, developer practices and future empirical research.