Abstract of PhD Thesis

Participatory Governance: a best practice model for effective and inclusive decision-making in wind energy development in Ireland

Bríd Walsh, NUI, Galway(2011)

Social acceptance of onshore wind energy development is increasingly challenging in Ireland, as elsewhere. Most wind energy developments in Ireland face local opposition. This is strongly linked to increasing intensity of wind energy projects in the landscape and insufficient local engagement. Sustaining long-term wind energy implementation is necessary to meet Ireland’s ambitious national and international climate and renewable energy obligations. Key industry stakeholders seek greater guidance on local engagement practices as they see local acceptance as increasingly critical to continuing implementation.

Little in-depth research has been undertaken to explore the extent to which local individuals and communities are meaningfully engaged in wind energy development in Ireland. The objective of this study is to formulate good practice principles for local engagement in the Irish wind energy sector drawing on experiences in the case of Denmark and The Netherlands. Primary objectives include: (a) assessment of local engagement policy and practice in wind energy development including conceptualisations of community wind energy in Ireland, (b) exploration of salient socio-economic features of the Danish and Dutch wind industries, especially as they pertain to promoting social sustainability, and (c) elaboration of an approach to wind energy development in Ireland that would enhance its social acceptance and long-term viability. The findings are based on a multi-method approach including over 80 interviews with key stakeholders across the three countries.

It is evident that there is no single panacea for local opposition to wind energy projects. Various good practice approaches to local ownership and participation in planning are advanced. These include enhanced stakeholder collaboration within the planning and development process for wind energy and increased local stakeholdings regardless of whether implementation is operationalised through an exogenous or endogenous model.