The article below was Published November 15, 2017 in PES Essential.
Renewable project companies have moved light years in the past decade on their ability to educate residents on the benefits of renewable projects. However, there is more work to be done to ensure that wind and other renewable projects do not get entangled in a web of misinformation, and eventually delayed or even defeated.
All too often, companies find that every single month a project is delayed, the renewable company loses thousands of dollars. Even a delay of a few weeks is costly, so keeping with a strict entitlement calendar is essential.
This month, one such project blocked by the Scottish government was West Coast Energy’s Highland Perthshire wind proposal. The wind farm was in the pipelines for five years and had been scaled back from forty to twenty-five turbines in response to public outcry. The project would have been able to generate enough clean energy to power 40,000 homes and start a community fund that could have generated as much as £9 million during its lifespan. However, despite these benefits, after site visits and extended public input, the Scottish government concluded the landscape effects outweighed the meaningful contribution the project would have admittedly made to achieving Scotland’s renewable energy targets.
Moreover, according to reports from The Courier, “opponents hoped the decision, and its cost in time and money, would ‘convince energy companies to seek more suitable locations in the future before they submit speculative plans.’” This sentiment demonstrates that without a strategic effort to activate wind supporters in a community, public opposition can easily shift both the conversation and the timeline in their favor, costing companies valuable time and resources. Given how effective this tactic has been at delaying or cancelling projects time and time again, it is not likely to go away anytime soon.
The best way to build public support for a project is through proper communication, patience, listening and outreach. I often feel that you cannot over-communicate when it comes to large projects. If companies stick to the facts, dispel the rumors, avoid the hype and employ some of the tactics listed below, then they may find themselves with a successful project.
Here are my ten tactics and points that should be considered in an integrated communications plan to build public support and educate residents on any wind project: