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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Wind of change : offshore wind farms, contested values and ecosystem services Klain, Sarah Catherine


Increasing reliance on renewable energy promises to reduce carbon emissions. Although national-scale polls demonstrate high levels of public support for developing renewable energy, local opposition has led to cancelations of renewable energy projects globally. This dissertation empirically investigates barriers to the siting of offshore wind farms in reference to their perceived risks and benefits; people’s willingness to pay to mitigate environmental risks; values that influence these choices and attitudes; and public engagement processes used to engage local citizens in decisions about siting and energy options. The first study investigates perceptions of offshore wind farm impacts and why risks to some ecosystem services (benefits from nature to people) may induce greater concern than others. These differences are attributed to the affective ways in which people perceive risk. Affectively-loaded impacts (e.g., harm to charismatic wildlife, visual intrusion) were assigned greater weight than more easily quantifiable impacts (e.g., displacement of fishing, impact to tourism). This study suggests that government authorities and developers can anticipate and more explicitly address affective dimensions of renewable energy proposals. The second study quantifies stated preferences for specific attributes of wind farms: effect on marine life, type of ownership, distance from shore, and cost. The strongest preference was for farms that greatly increased biodiversity via artificial reefs at an additional cost of $34-42/month. This demonstrates statistically significant willingness to pay for ecologically regenerative renewable energy development. The third study pilots methods on ‘relational values,’ which link people to ecosystems and include associated principles, notions of a good life and virtues. Results suggest relational values are distinct from standard measures of ecological worldview (New Ecological Paradigm) and predictive of attitudes towards offshore wind farms. The fourth study assesses attributes of effective public engagement processes to site renewable energy projects near three island communities. Amongst the array of criteria for robust analytic deliberative processes, good public engagement may be condensable to two themes: enabling bidirectional deliberative learning and providing community benefits. Attending to these themes may improve relationships among communities, government authorities and developers when deciding if and where to site renewable energy infrastructure.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International