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Public attitudes and environmental impacts of wind farms: a review

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Pages :
585 - 604

Karydis M.
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The promotion of renewable sources for electricity production, independent of carbon fuels and nuclear power, is a priority in the energy policy of many countries all over the world. The European Union has launched an ambitious program to increase the contribution of energy production from wind turbines; the aim set for the year 2020 is that wind power should account for 31% of EU’s current target regarding 20% reductions of carbon dioxide. This policy is favored by the fact that wind energy production cost is nowadays competitive in many cases to the cost of electricity produced from conventional non-renewable sources. However, there is a conflict concerning public attitudes: although the public in general is in favor of renewable energy sources including wind, there is usually very strong opposition by local people living in neighboring areas of wind farm developments that is attitudes toward wind power are to a large extent different from attitudes toward wind farms. It is also interesting that negative public opinion is rather high during the planning stage and significantly lower during the implementation stage. In addition, there are impacts on landscape aesthetic, human health as well as ecological impact on the flora and fauna, although compared to environmental impact from conventional energy sources, the environmental impact caused by wind turbines is relatively minor. Recent developments of offshore wind farms seemed to avoid people’s negative attitudes and soften public resistance and hostility against wind power energy but these expectations were rather optimistic. Opposition due to seascape aesthetic spoiling is as strong even for the marine environment. The impact on marine life and particularly on sea mammals due to noise and vibrations need to be further investigated. Existing activities such as navigation, fishing and recreational activities should not be hindered during site selection and planning. In the present work public attitudes and impacts on human health as well as impacts on landscape and ecosystem level, both terrestrial and marine, are reviewed and discussed.

Renewable energy; landscape; offshore wind energy; public participation; noise; ecological impact; impact on marine life