Perceptions of the Block Island Wind Farm Process: Perspectives From Those Involved

Last modified: 
August 29, 2016 - 9:30pm
Type: Thesis
Year of publication: 2016
Authors: Joseph Dwyer
Institution: The University of Rhode Island
City: Kingston
Academic department: Marine Affairs
Degree: Master of Arts

Renewable energy technologies (RETs), such as offshore wind, are facing the dilemma of relatively strong national support, yet formidable local opposition, especially concerning siting decisions. This research uses the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) as a case study example to analyze the public engagement process that led to the BIWF. This study attempts to find rationales for the public’s support or opposition of the project based on certain aspects of the process, rather than solely examining oppositional viewpoints. Through 19 in-person interviews, state officials, the private development team, and public stakeholders were asked about their expectations as they began the public engagement process. Specifically, the interviewees were asked how they perceive their role in the process, as well as the role of the other groups. Attitudinal statements were used to understand if these expectations were or were not fulfilled by the process and how that may impact project support. These statements and thematic coding found that trust, both for the process and the process leaders, was essential for support of the outcome. Without sensing trust, Public Stakeholders formed opposing views of the process in general, which then led to opposition to the outcome. For building trust, the proper incorporation of expectations was key. Also, the use of more informal meetings and trusted community liaisons were beneficial to the process for building support. The need for trust in the process appears essential for project support. Thus, techniques utilized in this case study can be looked to for best practices of reasonably incorporating expectations to build trust, as well as for potentially increasing support for projects.

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