Wind farm opposition is more likely to occur in white communities in the US, and wealthy communities in Canada, according to a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research, done on wind farms in North America, found that 17% of wind projects face local opposition in the US and 18% face opposition in Canada.
“Most research on opposition to wind energy projects focuses on specific case studies or small geographic areas,” says lead author Dr Leah Stokes, an associate professor of environmental politics at the University of California – Santa Barbara.
“We wanted to take a comprehensive look at political opposition across North America to understand how common opposition is and what predicts it.”
The researchers examined a dataset of 35,941 news articles published on wind farms built in the US and Canada between 2000 and 2016.
They hand-coded these articles as mentioning local opposition to the relevant wind project.
The researchers found that wind farm opposition had increased between 2000 and 2016.
They also found that wind farm opposition in the US was concentrated in the northeast, and in areas with a higher proportion of white residents.
In Canada, opposition was concentrated in Ontario and in wealthier areas.
According to the researchers, the median number of protestors was 23 per project in the US and 34 per project in Canada.
“Fossil fuel plants are predominantly located in poorer communities and communities of colour,” says Stoke.
“These plants create pollution. We need to replace fossil fuel power plants with clean energy, like wind and solar. When wealthier, whiter communities oppose wind energy projects in their backyards, they extend the lifetime of fossil fuel projects. This is an injustice.”