Chad Walker, Ph.D.

Research - Teaching - Impact

Toolkit for Turbines: Wind Energy Development in Ontario and Nova Scotia, Canada

June 01, 2017

This toolkit is meant as a relatively high-level lay summary of some of the key findings from Chad Walker’s (Western University) PhD research which looked specifically at the social responses to facility siting processes for wind energy development in Ontario and Nova Scotia, Canada. In Ontario, opposition to wind turbines has grown in recent years and emerging research has pointed to a lack of equity during the planning and operation stages as one of many probable determinants. Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia, there has been far less movement against wind turbines. We explore the degree to which these higher levels of support may be the result of community-based initiatives rolled out by the N.S. government including their Community Feed-In Tariff (COMFIT) program. 

The research is both qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (a survey) and addresses gaps in the academic and policy literature regarding local experiences – particularly as they relate to financial (economic) benefits, distributive justice and procedural justice. The scoping of these issues is nevertheless set within a broader context and involved speaking with wide variety of stakeholders on a range of issues related to wind turbines and turbine facility siting. There was keen interest in sharing what development has meant for small rural communities and how this may help those likely to face development opportunities in the future. 

A stark, but somewhat expected finding is the high degree of support for wind energy in Nova Scotia compared to Ontario. Local support of their own nearby turbine development was three times higher in the Nova Scotia cases where community-based development was much more common, but the size (scale) of N.S. developments was also most often in the order of only one to five turbines. In investigating the “why” behind this pattern, two main concepts stand out besides the scale issue: procedural justice and distributive justice. The former relates to residents’ involvement and opportunities to take part in wind energy planning, while the latter refers to the amount and distribution of financial benefits in communities with wind energy facilities. In both cases, there are relatively higher degrees of perceived justice in the Nova Scotia cases but overall both provinces scored quite low (below 50% agree) on many of the justice measures. Given that high support is accompanied sometimes by low levels of perceived justice suggests that the relationship between support and justice is complex. 

The toolkit also explores some novel forms of planning mechanisms and benefit packages based on the preferences of those residents. We find high levels of support for systems that would allow for independent experts during planning stages, investment opportunities for local residents, and discounts on electricity for those living close to turbines. The paper closes with a list of nine principles which are intended to summarize the key points of the document. Given the scope study and the toolkit document, that list is not meant to be exhaustive rather; those principles are meant to contribute to wider and ongoing policy conversations about wind energy development in Canada and beyond. 


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