Martin Fliegenschnee-Jaksch makes a habit of setting light to tea bags. It’s not a strange form of arson but a way of demonstrating thermal lift to children at the schools he visits to talk about wind energy. The tea bag, once lit, zooms up into the air – just as a turbine blade will rise up and start to turn as the wind passes over it, he told participants at the EWEA 2013 Annual Event in Vienna on Thursday.
He was speaking at a session on social acceptance, at which presenters discussed ways to communicate on wind energy and to improve public support for it.
Tomas Soderland from PowerQuest in Sweden presented a “code of conduct” that had been drawn up for wind energy developers, in order to show their commitments to “ethical standards” and in doing so get support from local stakeholders like farmers associations, he said. Could the whole European industry join together to draw up a wider code of conduct, he wondered?
Richard Fogg from PR consultancy CCgroup (who writes in the latest Wind Directions) stressed the importance of consistent messaging and rebutting false and misleading stories. Based in the UK, he said the British press was particularly antipathetic to wind energy – over half of stories are negative, and very few quote anyone from the industry – but winning support in the media is crucial. This is because politicians see the media as reflecting public opinion, even if this is not the case – in the UK, the majority of the public are actually in favour of wind energy, he pointed out.
On a more local level, a good way of getting “buy-in” is involving communities in wind energy projects, pointed out Thomas Verstraeten, a lawyer from Belgium. He described the ‘Wase Wind’ cooperative, which allowed locals to become shareholders for €250 a share. They were then entitled to a vote, to dividends which were at about 5-5.5%, and a beneficial tariff for 100% renewable electricity.
Overall, the message from the panel was that communication – sometimes not seen as an essential, especially in a tougher financial climate – is as Richard Fogg put it, “Not easy, not cheap but fundamentally necessary for the wind energy industry to succeed.”
One way of helping people around the world to discover the benefits of wind energy is by getting involved in Global Wind Day, held on 15 June every year. See www.globalwindday.org
Read more on social acceptance on this blog here.