Wind energy facility siting: learning from experience and guides for moving forward

Abstract

Renewable energy technologies, like wind turbines, solar arrays, and biomass (and biogas) plants, and carbon reduction technologies, such as carbon storage and sequestration (CSS), will be a critical part of future energy supplies as the United States and other countries seek ways to reduce carbon emissions. Renewable energy technologies can be perceived as hazardous and undesirable, much to the surprise of some. Siting failures can be high and unexpected. Broad, general support for renewable energy can give way to more polarization about specific proposals. While a growing literature exists about the formation of public support and opposition to wind and other renewable energy technologies, lessons relevant to the wind industry can be found from past experiences relating to hazardous technologies, including chemical processing plants, nuclear waste facilities, nuclear power plants, incinerators, and hazardous and municipal landfills, and locally unwanted land uses, such as airports, transmission lines, schools, and housing developments. There has been little direct application of this broad source of knowledge to wind or other renewable energy siting literature. We review this literature to identify factors that contribute to public support and opposition. Substantial increases in the contribution of wind energy to the US energy mix will require leadership at both the federal and state levels. We end by proposing several strategies for improving future wind energy siting efforts.