Community: a powerful label? Connecting wind energy to rural Ireland

Much of the research on the social sustainability of renewable technologies has focused on local acceptance issues, community benefits from exogenous developments, and matters related to the planning and development process. Grassroots-initiated wind energy schemes as a form of rural enterprise have received less attention, especially in the Irish context. Using a case study approach, this paper analyses the challenges and opportunities faced in progressing community wind energy projects in rural Ireland. Such an analysis is especially relevant given Ireland’s commitment to developing a fair and sustainable society as advocated in its Sustainable Development Framework. With the decline of agriculture and considerable outmigration from rural areas, wind energy represents an opportunity to revitalize rural economies. More generally, as opposition to wind turbines and associated infrastructure is common in Ireland, it is clear that the relevant authorities must engage local stakeholders more meaningfully in the planning and development process. In this vein, community energy initiatives have the potential to boost rural economies, enhance acceptance, and develop knowledge networks at the local level. Drawing lessons from a community wind energy case study, it is argued that community projects can be nurtured in Ireland by (i) engaging communities, especially weak stakeholders, in both agenda setting and the planning and development process for individual projects, and (ii) ensuring that technical and financial support is available to communities, while (iii) being careful to apply the ‘community’ label only to initiatives that can meet the expectations of such a project.

untitled.pngClick image to read case study

 

Reference list: Bríd Walsh. 2016. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/cdj/article/53/2/228/2333935?searchresult=1

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