Bird Killer, Industrial Intruder or Clean Energy? Perceiving Risks to Ecosystem Services Due to an Offshore Wind Farm

Sarah C. Klain, Terre Satterfield, Jim Sinner, Joanne Ellis, Kai M.A. Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Proposals to develop renewable energy technologies may threaten local values, which can generate opposition. Efforts to explain this opposition have focused on perceived negative aesthetic and environmental impact. Less attention has been paid to a fuller suite of the perceived risks and benefits associated with new energy technologies. This paper thus investigates impacts of an offshore wind farm pertaining to individual perceptions and judgments, and why risks to some ecosystem services might be cause for greater public concern than others. We find that this difference can be attributed to the affective and intuitive ways in which people perceive risk. Our mixed-methods design used interviews (n=27) that involved risk-benefit weighting tasks and an animated visualization to help people imagine an offshore wind farm in a familiar place. We found that affectively-loaded impacts (harm to charismatic wildlife and visual intrusion) were assigned greater weight than more easily quantifiable impacts (displacement of fishing, impact to tourism, cost of compliance with regulations). Interviewees identified increased regional energy self-sufficiency as the most valued potential benefit of an offshore wind farm. These results have implications for ecosystem service assessments generally and, more specifically, for our understanding of ‘affective’ dimensions of development proposals.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-129
Number of pages19
JournalEcological Economics
StatePublished - Jul 19 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank Cawthron Institute for their collaboration made possible with Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funding for this work (contract MAUX1208). We also thank members of the Connecting Human and Natural Systems lab group for useful feedback on early drafts. Evan Jones provided essential animation assistance. We also thank the following research assistants: Ruaridh Davies, Jakob Öberg, Allison Thompson, Calum Watt and Adrian Semmelink.


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