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Keywords:

  • wind farms;
  • public perceptions;
  • public acceptability;
  • NIMBYism

Abstract

It is widely recognised that public acceptability often poses a barrier towards renewable energy development. This article reviews existing research on public perceptions of wind energy, where opposition is typically characterized by the NIMBY (not in my back yard) concept. The objectives of the article are to provide a critical assessment of past research and an integrated, multidimensional framework to guide future work. Six distinct strands of research are identified, summarized and critiqued: public support for switching from conventional energy sources to wind energy; aspects of turbines associated with negative perceptions; the impact of physical proximity to turbines; acceptance over time of wind farms; NIMBYism as an explanation for negative perceptions; and, finally, the impact of local involvement on perceptions. Research across these strands is characterized by opinion poll studies of general beliefs and case studies of perceptions of specific developments. In both cases, research is fragmented and has failed to adequately explain, rather than merely describe, perceptual processes. The article argues for more theoretically informed empirical research, grounded in social science concepts and methods. A multidimensional framework is proposed that goes beyond the NIMBY label and integrates previous findings with social and environmental psychological theory. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.