Growing international demand for renewable energy has led to rapid growth in the wind power sector and wind farms are becoming an increasingly common feature of landscapes and seascapes in many countries. However, as the most appropriate locations within established markets are taken up, and as wind power penetrates new markets, there is an increasing likelihood that proposed projects will encroach on sensitive landscapes and residential areas. This will present challenges for the industry, particularly due to the impact that public opinion can have upon the outcomes of planning decisions about specific projects. This article introduces the four key dimensions of the WindNet programme, which are helping to elucidate some of the socio-technical debates that will likely shape the future of the wind power sector. The article outlines studies investigating (1) public responses to cumulative landscape and visual impacts, (2) the auditory impact of wind power projects on human health, (3) the science of wind farm design and its implications for planning, and (4) the relevance of the democratic deficit explanation of the so-called "social gap" in wind farm siting. The outcomes of the research being conducted by WindNet stand to help reduce uncertainty within the planning process and assist in providing a more comprehensive and fairer assessment of the possible impacts associated with wind power project development.
- wind power
- environmental impact assessment
- public acceptance
- cumulative effects assessment
- visual impact
- noise impact
- health and wellbeing