The tricky conundrum of responding to anti-wind NIMBY groups

The tricky conundrum of responding to anti-wind NIMBY groups

Pushback on wind projects sometimes comes from the environmentally minded.

Recently, we’ve noticed a little push-back on the renewable-energy front, particularly with respect to wind energy.

While many are all for cleaner sources of energy, others do not want large, ‘unsightly’ windmills in their backyards.

About 10 years ago near Oak Ridge, Tenn., the Tennessee Valley Authority erected 18 wind turbines atop a beautiful ridge known to locals, for obvious reasons, as Windrock Mountain.

Not surprisingly, a small but somewhat vocal group was upset that the natural beauty of the area would be diminished. Since the surrounding area sits in a valley, these windmills can be seen clearly from much of the area.

Similar to Oak Ridge, residents near Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are not happy with Cape Power’s plans to install 130 wind turbines 6½ miles offshore. Again, nearby residents began voicing concern about spoiling the natural beauty of the area.

The Cape Power project has rallied some to create a group called “Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.” On their web page, they refer to the project as a ‘wind factory,’ while detailing the negative impact on the environment and different species.

Regardless of the clean, renewable energy they produce, windmills are, ironically,  becoming a negative symbol for some –  just like power plant smokestacks.

Those who are not supporters of wind energy are using pictures of turbines on fire or dead birds underneath to make their point.  And these people are environmentalists – the ones who generally support clean forms of energy and want a clean environment for future generations. If you are a utility installing wind turbines, they are the first ones you would expect to be on your side, right?  Obviously not always.

Many Americans hold a less than flattering view of their local utility – our 2013 Utility Pulse survey found that almost half feel lukewarm (or worse) about their electric utility.

The good news is that being progressive with renewable energy sources offers an opportunity for utilities to upgrade their brand image. We’ve found that utility customers think that undertaking renewable energy initiatives is important and those who know their utilities are doing so, are more satisfied than those who aren’t aware of the efforts.

So when a vocal minority objects to the location of wind turbines, its best to truly consider their concerns.  Meet with them and discuss the issues. Are there alternative locations?  Is there a way to mitigate any damage to the environment?

And if they make fun of you on their websites,  resist the urge to issue a SLAPP lawsuit (strategic litigation against public participation), as some have done.

If not undertaken in a collaborative, transparent way, even renewable energy initiatives can blow the wrong way.

Skills

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Posted on

July 16, 2013

About the Author

Jim Lyza

Jim is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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