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Onshore and Offshore Locations for Wind Power Development –
What Does the Public Prefer and Should It Matter?
a report by
Senior Research Fellow, Danish Institute of Governmental Research
In the renewable energy sector there is continuous striving to develop the landscape in general, specific landscape attributes and areas, wildlife,
new and more efficient methods and technologies to reduce the flora and fauna and specific species are found to be significant whenever
costs of power generation, and wind power generation is no included as an attribute of wind power development in SP surveys.
exception. However, besides the continuous effort to develop better Accordingly, the surveys suggest that the respondents are uniformly
and cheaper turbines, wind power generation faces an increasing willing to pay a premium for ensuring that future wind power
challenge that has a strong influence on the overall welfare economic development is located in areas with a low impact on the landscape and
efficiency of wind turbines. More specifically, non-wind-resource landscape elements. This suggests that pristine areas and areas with
arguments have emerged and are pointing towards the fact that the high landscape values should be the last type of area to be developed.
external costs of wind power locations can potentially have a
significant impact on the costs of wind power generation. An It is interesting that higher turbines are not always associated with
externality or external cost is a cost that a project inflicts on other more negative externalities than lower turbines
and, if found to be
people but that is not compensated for and, therefore, is not of importance, the preferences are smaller than the preferences for
included in the costs of the project. Typical wind power externalities other wind farm characteristics such as the impact on nature. The size
are visual and aural and can have a negative influence on property of the wind farm also appears to have an influence on the overall
prices and revenue from recreational activities. external costs but, as in the case of the size of turbines, the results are
not unidirectional. Thus, preferences are quite ambiguous in the sense
The link between wind power generation (as well as other renewable that some people have preferences for wind farms with fewer turbines,
and non-renewable energy generation sources) and external costs has others prefer wind farms with many turbines and some seem to be
been recognised for many years. One of the first systematic attempts indifferent.
Accordingly, the impact of wind farms of different sizes
to assess and quantify these costs was carried out by the External costs seems to be unequally distributed among the targeted populations.
of Energy (ExternE) network during the 1990s. However, in the period However, it is not necessarily only the impact on nature and the
following this, the information on external costs, people’s preferences physical structures of a wind farm that people take into account when
and economic assessment of potential sites and turbine configurations expressing their preferences for future wind power development
(size, grouping and structure, etc.) has increased. In particular, stated locations. Other concerns also drive preferences, such as the process of
preference (SP) surveys aiming at identifying preferences in terms of wind farm planning and the wellbeing of other people. Starting with
willingness to pay for different wind turbine/farm outlays have grown the former, a recent study illustrates that the planning of a wind farm
in number. SP surveys entail a bundle of economic valuation methods should be carried out in co-operation with the municipality and local
developed to identify and elicit preferences/willingness to pay for non- representatives.
With regard to the latter, another recent study states
market goods such as the external costs of wind power generation. that the majority of the targeted population expresses significant
Since the 1980s, these studies have been used in fields such as preferences for reducing the impact (visual and aural) on settlements in
marketing, transport, health and environmental economics and as an the vicinity of future wind farms. To minimise these impacts,
input in cost–benefit analyses. respondents stated a willingness to pay for increasing the minimum
distance from wind farms to settlements. Although ‘settlement’ is not
In the following paragraphs, a review of these studies is presented defined in the survey, the results indicate that wind turbines should be
and discussed in relation to applicability in a policy context. located in relatively remote areas. As such, it seems that preferences for
onshore wind turbines are more focused on the location of the
Onshore Turbines turbines, i.e. the type of landscape and the impact on nature and
A common feature across all studies is that the location of onshore people living close to the turbines, and less on the physical attributes of
turbines should have the minimum impact on nature. The protection of the wind farms (number and height of the turbines).
That said, unfortunately only one study
tests whether the preferences
Jacob Ladenburg is a Senior Research Fellow at the
Danish Institute of Governmental Research, with a
for the physical attributes of the wind farm could be contingent on the
particular focus on cost–benefit analysis and choice of locations or/and the combination of the physical attributes.
environmental and resource economics. Dr Ladenburg
Accordingly, the surveys do not shed clear light on whether people have
studied at the University of Copenhagen, and
previous research has included assessments of the
a preference for small turbines in specific nature areas. Nor do they
detrimental effects of offshore wind farms, evaluation
provide any information regarding whether they prefer many small
of visual disamenities from offshore wind farms and
turbines or fewer large ones. These questions remain open. Nevertheless,
the results from the surveys strongly point towards onshore turbines
inducing a number of externalities, which are mainly associated with
© TOUCH BRIEFINGS 2009