Contrasting the core beliefs regarding the effective implementation of wind power.
An international study of stakeholder perspectives
Maarten Wolsink, Sylvia Breukers
Greening of Industries Network (GIN)
conference Cardiff, Wales
Please cite as follows:
Wolsink, M., Breukers, S. (2010) Contrasting the core beliefs regarding the effective
implementation of wind power. An international study of stakeholder perspectives. Journal
of Environmental Planning and Management 53 (5) 535-558. DOI:
This 2nd draft (December 2008) of the conference paper is the original manuscript of the
Contrasting the core beliefs regarding the effective implementation of wind power.
An international study of stakeholder perspectives
Maarten Wolsink, University of Amsterdam
Department of Geography, Planning and International Developments Studies
Sylvia Breukers, Energy Research Centre ECN, Petten/Amsterdam
How have institutional conditions affected policy and planning processes for wind energy
implementation? This is the research question of multiple-cases study (England, North Rhine
Westphalia, Netherlands) focusing upon Institutional Capacity building as a key to (strong)
Among those conditions are prevailing routines and patterns of thought, which are
analysed in this paper. The actors’ framings of policy, market, local, civil society, were
mapped using Q methodology, a technique that has a growing range of application in fields
(e.g. psychology, medicine, political science, geography) were the systematic influence of
value patterns on perspectives and assessments are significant and a research topic as such.
Core beliefs on wind power implementation are distinguished, regarding policy, planning,
market development, environmental issues, assumed ‘backyard’ attitudes, ownership, etc.
These beliefs are associated with the large differences in institutional capacity in the three
This paper was presented at the GIN (Greening of Industries Network) Conference, Cardiff,
Wales. The authors thank the organizers of the workshop on wind power development, Richard
Colwell (University of Cardiff) and Peter Strachan (University of Aberdeen).
This research was funded by NWO, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.
Contrasting the core beliefs regarding the effective implementation of wind power.
An international study of stakeholder perspectives
Most EU countries have policies that encourage the onshore implementation of wind energy,
but the installed capacity figures differ enormously. A comprehensive set of institutional key
variables can be held responsible for the fact that the rates of implemented wind power
capacity run counter to the actual physical resource potential in the countries (Toke et al,
2008). We examine this institutional setting through a geographical comparison of onshore
wind power developments in the Netherlands, North-Rhine Westphalia and England. The
institutional conditions and changes in the domains of energy policy, spatial planning and
environmental policy are compared, including how these influenced the implementation of
wind power in each case (Breukers and Wolsink, 2003; 2007; Agterbosch and Breukers,
A crucial dimension of the institutional context is how key actors with different interests
(including those who reject or only conditionally support wind power) perceive the realization
of wind power projects. This paper analyzes these perspectives (on implementation processes
and considerations about economics, spatial planning, and environment) and their relationship
with policymaking, planning, and decision-making in wind power projects. It addresses the
question: How do the perspectives contribute to an improved understanding of the
achievements in wind power developments onshore? The perspective is defined as the current
stakeholder positions in ongoing environmental discourses (Dryzek, 2005); while the aim is to
reveal these common narratives and perspectives of key stakeholders. Because the study is
conducted in three geographical areas, we can also recognize similarities and differences
among these cases, allowing us to assess how these patterns relate to the historical and
Representatives of all key stakeholder groups in the relevant policy domains are identified in
a comparative study of the institutional capacity to implement wind power (Breukers, 2007;
Breukers and Wolsink, 2007). The paper starts with a brief general description of the factors
used for the data collection instrument. The following section introduces the methodology, in
particular the application of the Q method. Then the outcome of the analysis is presented in an
extensive description of the four distinguishing patterns of the stakeholders’ perspectives
which emerge. After that description, the fundamental differences among those patterns are
analyzed and we highlight the similarities and differences in the three country cases.
Institutional context of belief systems on wind power
Our starting point is that the views under study are a reflection of the institutional setting of
wind power implementation and also of the processes through which these institutional
conditions affected the implementation of wind power. The comparison focused on the
institutional capacity (IC), specifically in allocating land for wind energy developments. IC
refers to the capacity to facilitate open policy processes, which in turn provide access to
relevant stakeholders and various types of knowledge resources. Primarily it is a function of
existing institutional conditions, in particular associated with collaborative approaches of
planning and deliberative decision-making (Healey, 2003). There is a variety of diverging
views of the policies on wind power implementation and the social acceptance of such
policies. In fact, several different “publics” exist, with entirely different stakes and different
policy beliefs. The patterns in those views can be seen as the “policy belief systems” of
coalitions of public and private actors in the relevant policy domains (Sabatier , 1998). These
beliefs all concern aspects within the institutional setting of the development of wind power.
The following set of factors is relevant for the comparison of the three international cases:
A: Arrangements within the policy domains of energy and environment - differences in
institutional arrangements and in the structures of the policy sectors affect the
opportunities for the implementation of sustainable energy (Szarka 2006; Breukers, 2007).
B: The role, position and objectives of existing energy companies - in the case of the
Netherlands, these held a gatekeeper role for more than a decade (Wolsink 1996),
whereas the German government forced them to accept competition from third parties
(Agterbosch and Breukers, 2008). The latter factor is an essential feature of the success of
the German “electricity feed-in” legislation (“Stromeinspeisungsgesetz”) and the
Renewable Energies Act (“Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz”) which effectively stimulated
third parties to invest in wind turbines (Wüstenhagen and Bilharz, 2006).
C: Financial support regimes and their stability – they form the basic premise of successful
wind power programs and their perceived stability positively affects investment decisions
(Toke et al., 2008). The feed-in tariff (FIT) system, as a financial procurement system, has
become a cornerstone for the success of wind power in several countries (Muñoz et al.,
2007; Lauber, 2004). National policy defines the objectives, conditions and instruments of
the financial support systems. Most significant is the fact that FIT grants grid access to all,
and therefore supports new, more inventive and renewables-friendly players enhancing
market competition. The emergence of such market competition is putting pressure on the
incumbents, and hence, despite its undeniable effectiveness, the FIT is continuously under
attack from energy companies and several EU member state governments (Toke, 2008).
D: The impact of the spatial planning and of location decision-making – so far these elements
have received most of the attention in social acceptance studies (Wüstenhagen et al., 2007;
Kellett 2003). From the developer’s perspective this is usually interpreted as an attitude-
behaviour “gap” between general public support for wind power and local opposition to
wind power schemes. However, studies of the underlying reasons for opposition show that
the objections are heterogeneous (Ellis et al., 2007). The opposition is shaped largely by
the manner in which planning and decision-making on wind schemes takes place (Loring,
2007; Wolsink, 2006a), for example how public consultation is organized (Aitken et al.,
2008). As wind power is a contested realm, also the legitimacy of national policy is
problematic, in particular when hierarchical power is overtly used to site turbines. In
addition to landscape concerns, negative attitudes also emerge in response to the
dissatisfaction with the planning and decision-making processes (Hammarlund, 2002;
Dimitropoulos and Kontoleon, 2009).
E. The assessment of acceptability of wind power projects – here views on landscape identity
and the cultural preferences for preserving countryside prevail (Wolsink, 2007, Johansson
and Laike, 2007). Political institutions that do not support local collaborative approaches
and that do not allow the community to negotiate on impact on the landscape reduce the
success of national wind power programs. These negotiations concern the choice of the
site for achieving a good fit between the wind power project and the landscape identity, as
perceived by the community that holds a commitment to the landscape of the site
F. Community renewables - related to the local acceptance of wind power projects is the
question whether institutional settings allow clear community identification (“sense of
ownership”; Warren and McFadyen, 2009) in locally organized, or publicly owned
windpower, becoming part of community energy provision (Rogers et al., 2008). This is
important, as it is the level where decisions about investments and siting of concrete wind
power schemes are taken in which the community may be involved as shareholder and as
stakeholder. Specifically, how is decision-making on that level organized and how do
social networks at that level get involved in the projects (Hindmarsh and Matthews,
E: The three major dimensions of accepting renewable energy innovation (Wüstenhagen et al
2007) - negative attitudes can be represented within the policy network at the regional and
national levels (socio-political acceptance) and among actors who are potential investors
in the renewables’ supply and demand (market acceptance).
The perspectives analyzed in this paper all relate to the sets of factors described above. We
selected a methodology that could reveal all structural differences of the views on these
factors, namely the Q method.
All three countries have very different implementation rates (Table 1). This study of
stakeholders perspectives is part of an international comparative three cases study on wind
power implementation. The country (“Land”) of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is a
German Federal Republic state of roughly the same size and population density as the
Netherlands. Since about 1995, Germany is most successful in implementing wind power, in
terms of installed wind power capacity as well as generating social acceptance for wind
energy projects. In spite of its tremendous potential, England has had the least success, in a
highly polarized context. England and the Netherlands have recently achieved some modest
improvements, partially in offshore wind farms. In NRW implementation has recently slowed
down because of saturation. The success of the feed-in tariff in Germany has resulted in stress
between site selection and effective power generation (Ohl and Eichhorn, 2009) and many of
the easy applicable sites are currently used by now.
Table 1. Installed wind power capacity (MW)*
* including near- and offshore
Applicability of the Q method
Q methodology provides a structural model for data collection and data analysis, as a part of
the formalized research protocol (Yin, 1994) needed for this cross-case analysis (Breukers,
2007). Q methodology applies inverted factor analysis to reveal rationales, narratives, or
perspectives about a particular topic (McKeown and Thomas 1988). It is a formal
reconstructive methodology which measures quantified unique responses to stimuli, in turn
allow for a qualitative evaluation and comparison of human subjectivity. Similarities among
individual views make it possible to articulate a condensed number of social narratives on a
topic (Webler et al., 2003). Contrary to surveys and interviews, it bypasses the researcher
because the patterns that are revealed by the analysis are produced by the respondents and not
by the analysing researcher. It allows “the categories of the analysis to be manipulated by
respondents” (Robbins and Krueger, 2000:645). It is additionally useful, as it includes
marginalized values in the overall picture (Brown, 2006).
Q method is increasingly utilized in social and political science because of its post-positivist
quality to uncover patterns of perspectives situated within highly subjective realms (Dryzek
and Berejikian, 1993; Durning, 1999). It makes the method applicable to studies evaluating
several topics relevant for geographical research of renewable energy implementation. These
topics are: sustainability (Barry and Proops 2000; Woolley and McGinnis 2000; Clarke, 2002;
Swedeen, 2006; Kvakkestad et al., 2007; Burns and Cheng, 2007; Frantzi et al., 2009),
landscapes (Previte et al., 2007; Zofragos, 2007; Nijnik et al. 2009), and environmental
geography in general (Eden et al., 2005; Hall, 2008).
Perspectives on contested land use are inevitably a topic suitable for Q analysis. Prominent
issues of contested land uses and strongly deviating paradigms or discourses for which the
method pre-eminently applicable include: waste infrastructure (Wolsink, 2004), transport
infrastructure (Van Eeten, 2001; Rajé, 2007), and water management (Webler et al., 2003;
Wolsink, 2006b; Raadgever et al., 2008). Wind power is also contested because of land use,
and a recent example of a q-study on the siting of wind energy infrastructure is by Ellis et al.
(2007). They analyzed distinguishing patterns in public values of the supporters and the
opponents of an offshore wind farm. Their study once again underlines the significance of
views on public engagement in wind power implementation. Although offshore 'landscapes'
are clearly different from onshore, the factors of identification that are shaping decision
making about onshore as well as offshore wind farms are not necessarily different (Haggett,
2008; Wolsink, 2010). It is interesting to see how the Q method is also fruitfully applied to
studying the patterns in views on issues such as: citizenship, the quality of participation and of
communication in environmental decision-making (Webler et al., 2001; 2003; Johnson and
Chess, 2006; Cheng and Mattor, 2006) and even as method to be applied in public
participation itself (Doody et al., 2009).
The factors that result from a Q analysis represent the common parts of individual narratives
and can be considered as ideal types. Access to the common narratives is gained by having
respondents sort statements according to how closely the statements match their personal
beliefs. Unlike a survey, where the respondents are selected to represent a population, in a Q
study participants are selected to represent relevant viewpoints for the topic. The statements
express opinions about the topic and these are further filtered to cover the full range of
diversity of potential viewpoints. Both selection processes are crucial for the quality of the
analysis (section ”procedure”).
Q method cannot offer more generalization about a population than the selection of
respondents allows. This is why structured samples (of distinguished types of key actors) are
used and this designs equals the options of any data collection method administered among
selected small samples. In fact, this multiple cases study is an extension of the usual design
that addresses only single cases. Similar to the study by Raadgever et al. (2008), which
compares perspectives on future flood management among German and Dutch stakeholders,
this study allows to compare stakeholders in three countries.
We follow the methodological steps as identified by McKeown and Thomas (1988) and
Stenner et al. (2008). The first step was to produce a concourse of 200 statements representing
the opinion domain: diverse viewpoints on all sub-themes present within the realm of the
topic. These were statements about all factors described above (section Institutional context).
On all these aspects varying and conflicting statements were included in the data collection.
Although respondents may perceive certain statements as facts –and according to that present
them as facts in the interviews– this is only a type of claim (“definitive”) among other types.
Dryzek and Berejikian (1993) present a matrix based on two dimensions, namely “discourse
element” (ontology, agency, motivation, relationships) and “type of claim” (definitive,
designative, evaluative, advocative), which is helpful to produce the maximum variety in the
concourse of statements. All are considered to represent opinions concerning the significance
of issues of economy, spatial planning and environment in relation to policymaking, planning
and the implementation of wind power.
A second approach to the development of statements focused on diverging preferences as to
how decision-making processes on environmental issues should be carried out. Wind power
implementation is decision making on environmental issues in different ways. Renewable
energy is relevant to climate change mitigation, reduction of air and water pollution, and
efficiency of scarce resources. On the other hand, it is infrastructure with impact on nature
and landscape. The discourses on who should be engaged and how to conduct such decision
making, show fundamental differences, as is shown by the Q studies by (among many others)
Webler et al. (2001; 2003). To provide the widest variation in perspectives about decision
making, the typology of Cultural Theory (Thompson et al, 1990) was helpful to create as
much variety among the statements as possible, in line with the method described in a
previous Q study on waste infrastructure (Wolsink, 2004). Although claims to universality of
the typology can be disputed it can be seen as a good heuristic device (Mamadouh, 1999). The
statements were formulated with the following styles of policy and decision making as
• Hierarchism (top-down; planned rationality; technocratic; command-and-control).
• Egalitarianism (emphasis on cooperation; participation; early stakeholder involvement;
• Individualism (market view; individual and utility based rationality; competition).
• Fatalism (no control; no influence).
Based on the criteria “full coverage of all aspects” and “inclusion of all styles of policy
making”, 60 statements were finally selected for the Q sample (table 2). These included 10 on
spatial planning, 9 on economic considerations, 6 on environment, whereas 10 represented
hierarchical, 10 egalitarian, 10 individualistic, and 5 fatalistic views.
The second step was to select the respondents, in this study representing key actors within the
spectrum in three different cases and active in the realm of all three dimensions of socio-
political acceptance (Wüstenhagen et al., 2007). Furthermore, all levels of governance from
local to national, were included in the P sample (table 2).
Table 2. P sub-samples: respondents representing stakeholders
Conventional energy sector
Private wind project developers
Wind power/renewables branches
/landscape preservation organisations
Anti-wind power groups
Local, regional, national governments
The respondents were in fact structured samples, carefully selected to get a representative
image from their interviews about the institutional capacity, the processes and relations in the
domain of wind power. As the third step, within the framework of the interviews the
respondents were invited to sort the Q statements. The 56 actor representatives sorted the Q
cards on a board with 60 boxes. The number of the columns (12) was chosen regarding the
number of statements (60) and the procedure of sorting them in a forced normal distribution.
The leftmost column of the 12 positions was labelled “Least in accordance with my opinion”
and the right: “Most in accordance with my opinion”. The respondents gave their personal
opinion, which holds in fact for all interview situations as frequently used in social sciences,
but they were fully aware of the fact that they were involved in interviews representing their
No. of statements: 1 2 4 6 7 10 10 7 6 4 2 1:
Score -6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6
The fourth’ step, the factor analysis, common respondents’ valuations of statements in the
context of their assessment of all statements are revealed (PQmethod software; Schmolck,
2002). The principal component analysis of the sorts revealed four factors (48% variance
explained). Orthogonal hand-rotation, which does neither affect the coherence of the
individual Q sorts nor the relationships between Q sorts, was applied for interpretation. Each
of the resulting final factors in table 4 represents a group of views that are mutually highly
correlated. The factors can be interpreted as patterns of perspectives found across the
stakeholders and across the three cases. Hence, instead of pre-defining categories, we ensured
that the factors were determined by the respondents. The interviews aided further
interpretation, and the analysis includes illustrative quotes from respondents which reflect the
perspectives. Table 3 shows the rank scores of all 60 statements on the ‘idealized’ Q sorts for
each of the four perspectives. Each of these four reflects respondents that load highly on the
same factor, which indicates a common viewpoint. Those with differing views load on other
factors (McKeown & Thomas, 1988).
Table 3. Statements with factor arrays arranged from consensus to disagreement.
Statements (random numbers)
Factor Arrays for factor:
The way planning of planning (e.g. top-down vs. deliberation)
determines whether conflicts about available space are solved and
whether a wind farm is actually built.
The growing demand for energy and increasing environmental
problems cannot be solved by government policy.
Everyone prefers that new infrastructure like railway lines or
wind parks are not built too close to their homes.
If good arguments exist for constructing a wind farm in one local
community instead of another, then the local authorities will
agree to this.
It is mainly local groups that try to thwart the construction of
Decisions on infrastructure cannot be made by governments
alone, but they must result from negotiations with all involved
Residents don’t want to foot the bill for the nation’s energy
problems by accepting a wind turbine park in their area.
Incentives should be directed to the development of locations for
wind parks and the parties involved in this.
In a liberalized market, wind energy can only be a success if
governments continue to lend support.
Every local authority would rather have wind turbines built in
another local authority.
As far as neighboring residents are concerned, wind farms should
be built in some other place where people live.
It is usually individuals, like landowners, that block the
construction of wind turbines.
The system of green energy certificates is good for trade, but not
for the environment.
Top-down planning of wind parks is detrimental to the eventual
implementation of wind energy.
The decision-making surrounding wind energy is an
unpredictable process that nobody can control.
Professional know-how and scientific expertise ought to play a
decisive role in decision-making on infrastructure.
Local initiatives are decisive for the successful implementation of
Local authorities should always support the realization of
facilities with not just a local, but also a general public interest.
Unrealistic appreciation of the complexity of the planning process
by initiators is largely to blame for disappointing levels of wind
Power companies have no understanding of planning and are
unaccustomed in dealing with local actors.
It is mainly environmental organizations that frustrate the
construction of wind turbines.
For successful implementation of wind energy, it is important that
power companies do not have too much influence on wind energy
It is virtually impossible to exert influence on the implementation
of wind energy.
It is wrong to take decisions without giving neighboring residents
a decisive influence.
It is not so much the participation and involvement in decision-
making that is important to the success of a wind farm project,
but the compensation for the disturbance caused by it.
Local opposition to wind turbines is caused by the way in which
decision-making processes take place.
The problem with public input is that it is primarily based on
It is imperative to involve all concerned parties locally before the
first design for a wind farm ever sees the light of day.
More citizen participation leads to even more opposition and
even less windmills
When making policy on renewable energy, the environment and
not energy supply should be taken as a point of departure.
Decisions that are made with the approval of the local community
are generally also better decisions.
Initiators take too little time and effort to fit a wind farm into the
The government is not capable to adequately direct the decision-
making process around wind energy.
Incentives should be directed to the turbine industry, power
companies, and research institutes since these parties determine
the successful market introduction of renewable energy.
If wind energy policy is formulated primarily by the Department
of Trade and Industry, certain aspects of sustainability and town
and country planning will receive insufficient attention.
Disappointing implementation of wind energy is usually a result
of unnecessarily slow and arduous rounds of decision-making.
When building infrastructure, one need not be so concerned about
the environment at the local level because this is already taken
into account at the national level.
The local community should be able to exert its influence in
every phase and on all aspects of the decision-making process.
Offering financial participation in wind turbine projects to nearby
residents is a good way to defuse opposition.
Power companies will always try to keep third parties from
entering the wind energy market.
In the end, it is the market that will determine the success or
failure of renewable energy.
We can’t do anything about the greenhouse effect anyway, so it’s
pointless to built wind farms.
Involving potential opponents to a wind farm in a timely manner
will increase its chances of getting built.
Opponents of wind farms are not willing to compromise, so it is
pointless to involve them in decision-making.
Financial support geared towards wind energy yield is better than
financial support for investments in wind energy capacity.
The input from the public in a decision-making process often
shows a lack of expertise.
Local interests are not taken enough into account at the national
and regional level, so that every time a wind farm is planned it is
understandable that there is local resistance to it.
In order to successfully implement wind energy, it is a good idea
to require local authorities and regional governments to reserve
space for wind turbines in their local plans.
Planning processes must be carried out rapidly in order to not
scare away investors, operators and power companies.
Uncertainty about the arrangements for renewable electricity
scares off potential investors
Public consultation procedures make the decision-making
process more complicated and lengthy than necessary.
A guaranteed minimum price for wind energy delivered to the
grid is an important factor in successful implementation.
Most of the time, important parties are insufficiently consulted
during the design phase of wind turbine projects.
Onshore wind energy should be left as it is. The future lies in
Local opposition to a wind farm is nothing more than defending
Although local opposition to wind projects is quite normal, the
public benefit of wind energy is rarely disputed.
The small amount of clean energy that you generate with
windmills does not compensate for the negative impact they have
on the landscape.
Initiators of wind farm projects underestimate the value of the
landscape when developing locations.
Before building windmills all over the country, energy efficiency
options should be investigated more thoroughly.
National and regional governments should be able to issue
directives when local authorities fail to co-operate with the
construction of a wind farm.
Results: four perspectives on wind power implementation
Four factors account for almost half of the information in the 56 sorts (48% explained
variance). The first five in Table 3 are ‘consensus statements’, which do not significantly
discriminate between any of the factors. The description of the factors emphasizes the specific
features of the established patterns in each of the four perspectives; therefore, we will
highlight the key differences between the patterns.
Table 4. Scores of actors on factorsa,b
VWNH (wind power branch)
Pawex (wind power branch)
Novem (government agency)
BEE (renewables branch)
Nabu Deutschland (nature protection)
BWE (wind power branch)
MUNLV (state ministry of environment)
BMU (federal ministry of environment)
Energieteam (private developer)
MSWKS (state ministry of economic affairs)
Greenpeace (environmental organisation)
EZ (national economic ministry)
DTI (national economic ministry)
RSPB (bird protection)
VDMA (turbine industry branch)
Landesinitiative Zukunftsenergien (govern. agency)
Nabu NRW (nature protection)
Bürgerwindpark Baumberge (citizens’ wind project)
Nuon (energy sector developer)
Greenpeace (environmental organisation)
FME (turbine industry branch)
Province of North-Holland
VROM (ministry environment and planning)
BWEA (wind energy branch)
WindProspect (private wind developer)
Npower Res (energy sector developer)
RPA (renewables branch)
Defra (national environmental ministry)
English Nature (nature protection)
Greenpeace (environmental organisation)
ABO Wind (private wind developer)
Windhoek (local anti-wind)
WaddenVereniging (nature protection)
Country Guardian (anti-wind network)
FOL/CPRE (landscape protection)
CPRE (landscape protection)
BLS (anti-wind group)
BMWA (federal economic ministry)
VDEW (conventional power branch)
No significant loading on any factor
WEOM (private wind developer)
EnergieNed (conventional power branch)
Maiwag (local anti-wind)
AEP (conventional power branch)
ODPM (ministry of planning)
a. Bold shaded: factors including highest scores.
b. Shaded: significant secondary |scores|>.40
The first three factors represent support for wind power implementation, but from different
perspectives (Table 3). The first is the Independent Developers perspective, the second one
the Various Commitments perspective, and the third one Unconditional Support. The fourth
factor, Contested Wind, differs from the first three in that it is critical of both wind power
developments and of the manner in which wind projects are proposed, planned and
Factor 1 - Independent Developers perspective (18 % explained variance)
Overall, the Independent Developers perspective is more apparent in NRW than in the
Netherlands and the least apparent in England (Table 4). The strongest representatives
(highest factor loadings) of this perspective are: the renewables’ and wind energy producers in
NRW; Nabu Deutschland (nature protection organization); a German social scientist; the
NRW Environmental Ministry; the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature
Conservation and Nuclear Safety; the German Research Institute and a private wind
developer. In the Netherlands, a wind energy cooperative, the social scientist, a farmer-
developers’ association (VWNH) and a private developers’ association (Pawex) score
medium to high on this factor. In England, only one stakeholder, Baywind Cooperative,
represented this perspective. Medium scores are achieved by the Dutch research institute, a
Dutch government agency, the NRW Economic Ministry, and Greenpeace Germany.
This perspective entails the view that “support programmes should not focus on industry but
on those who develop and invest in projects” (wind power branche) and it emphasizes the
importance of clarity and the reliability of renewable energy policies because uncertainty
scares away potential investors . Energy providers prefer a guaranteed price for wind
power fed into the grid  rather than financial support incentives for investments in wind
power capacity . In contrast to the other proponents, the statement that the market
primarily determines the success or failure of renewable energy is soundly rejected . This
may relate to the conviction that truly liberalized and open energy markets will never actually
exist, due to the monopoly position occupied by energy companies. It may also reflect the
undesirability of the primacy of the market. “Energy is a basic need like water supply; it
should not become the prerogative of actors whose main aim is profit maximization.”
When it comes to planning wind projects, this perspective supports the view that it is a
good idea to force local authorities and regional governments to reserve space for wind
turbines in their land use planning . Furthermore, it endorses the view that making
decisions together with the local community usually results in better decisions .
According to a private developer: “The local community should acquire information early on
the process. Involving them is not just the task of the government but also of the project
developers themselves who should organize meetings.”
Factor 2 – Conditinal support perspective (9% explained variance)
The conditional support perspective, which recognises the importance of stakeholder
involvement, represents fewer actors in the field and it seems quantitatively less significant.
The most distinctive representatives are the VDMA (German turbine manufacturers’
organization), followed by the NRW State Initiative for Future Energies, and the UK Ministry
of Trade and Industry. The representatives’ loadings on this factor are not very high (except
for VDMA) and it is most prominent in the NRW case. Remarkably, two nature protection
organizations also load on this factor. These generally favour wind energy but have in certain
instances opposed wind projects that they considered harmful. Only one wind project
developer, the citizen’s project Baumberge, moderately loaded on the Conditional Support
factor. As far as all the other respondents are concerned, wind power is not their core activity.
This perspective unites both industry-related actors with a clear interest in wind power,
conditional supporters of wind power, and several stakeholders who emphasize a balanced
trade-off with other interests in planning and decision-making.
The Conditional Support factor shows strong commitment to the early involvement of local
communities and the significance of their participation in implementation decisions. With the
approval of the local community, decisions generally improve  and the early involvement
of potential opponents is regarded as important [19)]. “Success is most likely when the
initiator and municipality sit around the table with local residents at an early stage and are
willing to accept changes to the plan and where local residents receive a share of the profits.
Success is least likely where the planning takes place from above, as it generates
resistance.”(Nature organisation). The findings propose to reject the idea that opponents are
not willing to compromise and that it is useless to involve them . Conditional support is
strongly advocated: “If you oppose, you don't necessarily oppose the whole idea of a wind
farm. Usually some sort of development can still take place...but in a different way. For
instance in a project with ten turbines, it might be that only three cause a problem, so we can
negotiate that they are moved to another place.” Concerning the conditions, it is clear that
“not every landscape is suitable to start a wind project, and more attention should be given to
the spatial and societal feasibility of wind projects.” (Env. protection org.) From this
perspective, the initiators of wind projects are seen as neglecting the weight of the landscape
when developing locations .
A pro-active stance by local government in local planning for wind power is advocated, i.e.
local government should designate areas for wind power in their local land plans, in order to
facilitate the exploitation of this power source . As in Factor 1, setting a guaranteed
minimum price for wind power  is supported, because “the major reason for the German
success was that the financial support was directed at the selling of the electricity coming out
of the renewables.” (Indep. developer). However, this perspective also moderately supports
 the statement that incentives should be directed at the turbine industry, power companies,
and research institutes. This can be understood from the positions of the turbine
manufacturers and the State Initiative NRW which encourage (the export of) North Rhine-
Westphalian wind power technology, products and services.
Factor 3 - Unconditional Support for wind power (12% explained variance)
The strongest perspective in England is the perspective of Unconditional Support. Wind
Prospect, Npower Renewables, and the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) hold this
view; in the Netherlands it is endorsed most clearly by the power company Nuon and
Greenpeace (Table 4). In NRW the only strong representative is ABO Wind, a medium-sized
project developer. Moderate support for this perspective comes from: the Dutch turbine
manufacturers; the Dutch Provincial Officer; the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial
Planning, and the Environment; the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs; Greenpeace UK; and English Nature (a nature protection organization).
This perspective also highlights the importance of offering guaranteed prices for wind energy
delivered to the grid  and it also fully agrees with the Independent Developers perspective
that uncertainty about the arrangements for renewable electricity deters potential investments
. However, the most prominent characteristic of this Unconditional Support is its rather
distinct hierarchical view with regard to project planning and decision-making. Local
opposition is judged as being merely about defending one’s self-interest . Planning
decisions should be made in the public interest and not to serve someone’s private interests:
“It is too easy to halt a wind project …... One single person can screw up a whole project.
The permitting procedures are lengthy, complex and involve too many moments for
participation” (Energy company). National and regional governments (as representatives of
the public interest) should have the power to issue directives when local authorities fail to co-
operate with the construction of wind farms . Unconditional Support rejects participation
beyond formal consultation because such public input would be primarily based on emotions
:“It is a big problem I think, these value judgments” (Wind energy branch). Unlike the
other three perspectives, Unconditional Support denies that important parties are often
insufficiently consulted during the design phase of wind turbine projects . This technocratic
perspective is also unique in not agreeing that developers take too little time and effort to fit a
wind farm into the existing environment ; thus it rejects the idea that the amount of wind-
generated electricity does not adequately compensate for the potential landscape impact .
Within the entire group of actors, a hierarchical approach is preferred; professionals and
experts work out a project plan, while other (local) stakeholders can only respond afterwards.
An exception is WindProspect, a company which does involve local stakeholders during the
design phase. Slow and complex decision-making is held responsible for delayed
implementation . The Unconditional Support perspective is the only one to include the
technocratic statement that soliciting public input in a decision-making process often shows a
lack of expertise . This is remarkable, as Dimitropoulos and Kontoleon (2009, p.1853)
suggest in a Greek study, in a country in which the top-down technocratic approach also
prevails: “there are unnecessary external costs imposed to the advance of wind technology,
which might even lead to its under-exploitation”. However, Unconditional Support clearly
deviates from the other three as it is the only perspective to deny the significance of elements
in renewables planning which are increasingly recognized as crucial for successful local
decision making and renewables deployment. These concern a move away from top-down
planning, focusing more on community commitment, trust and fairness of process (Rogers et
al., 2008; Wolsink and Devilee, 2009).
Factor 4 - Contested Wind (9% explained variance)
The most differentiating statements between the four factors concern the Unconditional
Support and Contested Wind perspectives. The latter combines fierce opponents and
conditional supporters who share concerns about landscape impact, local interests and
frustrations about project planning and decision-making. This factor is most apparent in
England, especially among: Country Guardian, Friends of the Lake District, Council for the
Protection of Rural England, and the social scientist. Cumbria County supported it
moderately. It reflects the English tradition of strong interest in landscape protection. From
the Dutch and NRW case, only two respondents are very supportive of this factor. The Dutch
organization for the protection of the Wadden Sea Area expresses moderate support.
Furthermore, the German Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology and the German
branch organization for the conventional energy sector also moderately support this view,
which is remarkable, as neither landscape nor local interests are their primary concern.
It suggests a more critical scrutiny  of the views that the public benefit of wind energy
 and the small amount of clean energy generated by wind does not adequately compensate
for negative landscape impact . In this perspective, the benefits of wind power are hotly
contested, primarily related to landscape values and to the perception that decision-making in
relation to wind power implementation does not adequately take into account local interests.
The Contested Wind perspective proposes to thoroughly investigate energy efficiency options
 as an alternative to constructing more building wind turbines. “Strategic planning for
energy should promote energy conservation, energy efficiency and small-scale renewable
technologies before relying on large-scale wind power schemes.” (Regional countryside
protection org.). Obviously, this perspective disapproves of national or regional directives
when local authorities fail to co-operate with the construction of a wind farm . Public
consultation does not complicate and slow down the decision-making process more than
necessary . On the contrary, the perspective argues in favour of the early involvement of all
relevant stakeholders, from the moment the design process starts . “There is a difference
between engagement and consultation. We want to be engaged in decision-making processes
in an early stage, rather than being consulted at the last minute when decisions have already
been taken and agendas have already been set.” This perspective finds that environmental
concerns are not sufficiently addressed in infrastructure projects at national level . “People
feel opposed to the idea of sacrificing their locally valued environment for the sake of what
they perceive to be national policy.” (Local anti-wind).
The obvious distinction between the Contested Wind perspective and the other concerns is its
overall doubt about the value of wind power. This doubt is complemented by strong concerns
about landscape values and the rejection of hierarchical directives which disregard local
concerns. The dominant issue of landscape valuation follows the research evidence that the
most salient concerns in considering costs and benefits of wind power schemes are related to
landscape values (Wolsink, 2007; Johansson and Laike, 2007). Placing emphasis on the
significance of local involvement in projects to safeguard these values is a key characteristic
of the Contested Wind factor.
Correspondence and contrasts in the three proponent factors
None of the proponents’ perspectives acknowledges that more citizen participation leads to
even more opposition and even less windmills . There is support for the measure of
obliging local authorities and regional governments to include space for wind turbines in their
local plans . This measure has been applied in Germany since 1997 and it enables
municipalities to designate (as well as exclude) areas for wind power in a pro-active manner.
It provides clarity to both developers and residents and it is one of the factors in NRW’s
successful implementation (Breukers, 2007). This stance is much less recognized in the
Unconditional Support perspective; developers in England are particularly afraid that local
authorities will only select barely suitable locations. “Local authorities are not necessarily
best qualified to choose these areas, they often do it by constraints mapping, that is by
mapping out all the constraints. This filters out too many areas so you end up with very small
areas. (...) The market should decide where wind energy developments are to go.” (Energy
sector developer). There are other issues that separate the Unconditional Support perspective
from the perspectives of Independent Developers and Various Commitments. The view that it
is important to involve local stakeholders  is not present in the Unconditional Support
perspective. Differences also exist regarding the option of securing financial benefits as a
good way to prevent or overcome local resistance  and the importance of local initiatives
for successful implementation .
In particular, there is little common ground between the Independent Developers perspective
and the Unconditional Support perspective. However, they do share concerns about investor
security  and the significance of supporting energy yield instead of subsidizing new
capacity . The persistent use of policy instruments which support capacity is important in
the context of the slow developments in England; on the other hand, in the Netherlands this
effect is enhanced by very instable policy support (Breukers en Wolsink, 2003; 2007). Both
perspectives agree about the existing large untapped onshore potential  and both deny that
project developers often underestimate the value of the landscape when developing locations
. Apparently, most project developers (representatives of the first and third factors) think
that they adequately address landscape concerns, which is remarkable considering that most
opposition and conflict relate to perceived landscape impacts.
The Various Commitments perspective and the Unconditional Support perspective have only
limited common views that distinguish them from the other two. These are the perception of
the market as the decisive factor and the conviction that wind power implementation is
uncontested [33,57]. The differences between both perspectives and the third proponents’
perspective, namely the Independent Developers, are quite remarkable. The Independent
Developers perspective is represented by actors from the most successful country-case
(NRW), who have the greatest experience in wind power and among them there is outright
suspicion of the conventional energy sector. “Energy companies have a monopoly position,
especially where they operate the grid. We need to counterbalance that by law because else
they will use this position to favour their own business and their own activities in renewables
development.” (Citizens wind project). The opinions that power companies try to keep third
parties from entering the wind energy market  and that incentives should be directed at
power companies and the turbine industry  strongly discriminate between the proponents
Furthermore, prominent differences of opinion distinguish the manner in which project
planning and implementation is to be conducted - early involvement and participation of
stakeholders and the usefulness of involving opponents [6,8]. The Unconditional Support
perspective sticks solely to consultations based on ready-made plans.
Table 5 Statements with highest discrimination for factors 1, 2 and 3
Most of the time, important parties are insufficiently consulted during the
design phase of wind turbine projects
Opponents of windfarms are not willing to compromise, so it is pointless to
involve them in decision-making.
Uncertainty about the arrangements for renewable electricity scares off
Power companies will always try to keep third parties from entering the
wind energy market.
Incentives should be directed to the turbine industry, power companies, and
research institutes since these parties determine the successful market
introduction of renewable energy.
In the end, it is the market that will determine the success or failure of
Initiators of wind farm projects underestimate the value of the landscape
when developing locations.
Before building windmills all over the country, energy efficiency options
should be investigated more thoroughly.
Comparison between the geographical cases
It is significant to note that all four perspectives are present in each country. This is
remarkable, as other comparative studies have found some perspectives missing in specific
cases, for example Raadgever et al. (2008, p.1101) who studied regarding flood management
in the Rhine basin. This result implies similarities in patterns of conflicting perspectives
among international cases. However distinctions do exists; some perspectives are prominent
in one case and marginal in another (Table 6). The diverging perspectives can be related to
different legacies and varying implementation achievements in the three cases. In general, the
two most contrasting and extreme perspectives dominate the discourse in the least successful
case (England). On the other hand, the two more balanced perspectives are most prominent in
North Rhine-Westphalia, where actors have much more experience with successful
implementation. In the Netherlands, none of the four perspectives is dominant.
Table 6. Comparison of support for factors and implementation achievements
In NRW wind power implementation had the most success (Table 1) and, when compared to
both England and the Netherlands, opposition to wind project only became significant at a
time when an impressive installed capacity level had already been reached. There was no
opposition to wind projects for a long time because the policies had created a framework that
favoured civil and local shareholding, at the same time also promoting their increased
involvement. Citizens’ projects and other private developments were strongly stimulated by
the opportunities to feed wind-generated electricity into the grid at a reasonable price.
The support of the German Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology and the German
conventional power sector for opposing statements reveals the other side of the above-
mentioned feeling among developers that power companies use their power over the grid to
keep third parties from entering the wind energy market . Whereas in the UK the policy
support still favours larger investors (mostly power companies), Germany has effectively
removed these barriers, thus allowing new players to enter the market. The fierce opposition
of the power sector highlights the costs to society, but assessments of cost and benefits show
that avoided externalities outweigh the extra costs of operating grids (Krewitt and Nitsch,
2003). The feed-in tariff access of new producers to the grid is the major factor in the German
wind-power success (Jacobsson and Lauber, 2006).
The Independent Developers factor is most prominent in NRW. These independent
developers argue that financial participation and the early involvement of relevant
stakeholders is the most suitable approach. Wind power implementation is most successful in
NRW, where expectedly such approaches are more present than in England and the
Netherlands. In the Dutch and English cases there is only moderate support for the
Independent Developers perspective, mainly from those representing locally based
developers. They are usually well connected with the local socio-political networks and are in
a better position to foster local social acceptance. By contrast, the Unconditional Support
view, comparable to the “Embrace wind” perspective found by Ellis et al. (2007), involving
energy sector developers and most of the English wind sector, tends to focus on a rather
technocratic and hierarchical approach to project planning and development which leaves
little room for participation and involvement. An associated view is that professional know-
how and scientific expertise ought to play a decisive role in decision-making regarding
infrastructure projects . As stated by a respondent representing the wind energy branch:
“It is all about education, education, education. What you are confronted with is two terms:
NIMBY (not in my backyard) and the other one are the Bananas (build absolutely nothing
anywhere near anything). And we have lots of those.”
It is striking that such views are still prominent in England. The negative consequences of this
“name–calling” have already been identified long ago (Wolsink, 1989), and its adverse impact
on community acceptance of wind developments is widely documented (Wolsink, 2006a;
Ellis et al., 2007; Devine-Wright, 2009). The weak implementation achievements in terms of
installed capacity in England coincide with low achievements in generating social acceptance
(Breukers and Wolsink, 2007; Loring, 2007). Community acceptance is problematic because
there is little experience with grassroots wind projects, local co-ownership or early
participation in project planning. Regarding socio-political acceptance, in England (and the
Netherlands) there is no willingness to opt for policy measures proven effective in NRW and
other German states and to implement more effective planning strategies (Smith, 2007). The
power company centred focus and the reluctance to support local wind power developments is
reflected in the large support in England for the Unconditional Support and the Contested
Wind perspectives. An important element of this polarization is that, in the technocratic
perspective, the motives of potential opposition are considered illegitimate because they are
based on ‘egoistic and emotional concerns’ instead of ‘facts’. This is a problematic view in
light of debates on the acceptance of wind energy, which are full of intertwined and
conflicting facts and values (Strachan and Lal, 2004). Such claims are also apparent in the
Dutch case, but neither preferences for financial and planning participation nor preferences
for top-down approaches prevail. Consequently, socio-political acceptance has not stimulated
the development of effective supportive policy choices in the Netherlands (Wolsink and
Breukers, 2007; Agterbosch and Breukers, 2009).
In this paper we analyze patterns in beliefs concerning the implementation of wind power in
three geographical cases and we apply Q methodology in order to compare systematically the
patterns in beliefs in the three country cases. There is a wide variety of stakeholder views on
the reasons for successful implementation of wind power. Contentious issues across the cases
involve: landscape values, participation in project planning and local decision-making,
financial participation, the role of local authorities, and the interpretation of the motives
behind opposition. An advantage of the Q method is that it allows us to systematically
compare the different cases. The resulting findings indicate that the issues mentioned above
are salient in current debates on wind power implementation in all three cases. At the same
time, it also allows us to measure the degree of importance and to assess the manner of
expression. The corresponding results show that the four perspectives are not equally
represented in all three cases.
Wind projects contribute to global environmental aims regarding externalities of conventional
power generation. If replacing fossil fuel remains the sole reason to promote wind projects,
successful implementation is not at all self-evident. At the local level, the environmental
impact is not necessarily positive and host communities have certain expectations regarding
involvement and revenues. The values of cherished landscapes or local quality of life are the
most salient arguments behind opposition to wind power developments.
A project planning and development approach needs to take into account both the motives for
support and motives for opposition. Wind power implementation is a hotly contested issue.
Our analysis indicates that an approach which focuses on implementing the highest possible
number of wind power project, while primarily relying on technocratic reasoning and
hierarchical policies (legitimized with references to the ‘common good’), in practice has the
least chance of success. A strategy in which project developers facilitate local ownership and
institutionalize early participation in project planning and development, or that favours civil
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