The ‘Business’ of Engaging Communities: Unpacking ‘Process’ and ‘Outcome’ as Dimensions of Community Wind Energy Projects
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In recent years, Scotland has seen an increased number of wind energy developments as a result of the Scottish Government’s strategy to achieve its renewable energy target by 2020. This has meant that there has been a rise in the number of local communities and opposition groups who condemn this transformation of Scotland’s landscapes, primarily due to communities feeling excluded from the design of developments in their locality, and their perception that financial benefits are being accrued only by commercial developers. Acknowledging these challenges, policy and guidance documents are currently failing to encourage commercial developers to deliver more inclusive and equitable community engagement, community benefits, and community ownership schemes. The dissertation therefore explores ‘process’ and ‘outcome’ as fundamental dimensions within commercially-owned community wind energy projects that seek to benefit and involve local communities. The research project utilised a case study of a commercial wind farm in Fife, Scotland in order to highlight an example of current practice within wind farm developments. Twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted with the developer and a range of community members surrounding the wind farm, as identified through a stakeholder analysis. The interview findings were combined with the results of a desk-based case study review of other wind energy developments in order to corroborate or invalidate the findings. The results highlighted a number of significant implications for future policy and guidance for commercial wind farm developers. It was found that developers should endeavour to incentivise, enable and offer the appropriate opportunities for meaningful community engagement, in order to provide an outcome which is suitable to the local context, and which conveys the wants and needs of the relevant communities.