One only needs to visit wind-watch.org or other anti-wind farm websites to see that opposition to wind farm projects, whether organic or not, isn't going away anytime soon. Wind watch posts hundreds of articles per month, sometimes as many as twenty a day on wind projects across the globe. Just a quick internet search of projects gives us such news headlines such as "Giant wind farm bid near Hawick slammed as worst yet drawn up" or "Wind farms in Ohio pit environmentalists against some neighbors..." or "Savoy voters reject bylaw allowing taller wind turbines" as just a few quick examples of recent headlines.
What wind farm projects often need is a cohesive public affairs strategy that takes into consideration that invariably, some level of opposition will likely occur to a project, and waiting for that moment to act is already putting your project one step behind. Wind farm projects are not defeated because they are bad projects. They are defeated for a myriad of other reason, often led by fear tactics of the opposition, lack of public outreach by the developer, and project approval being stalled so long, that projects become financially not viable. Every month that goes by when approval of a project is "expected" but then delayed, results in numerous fees and costs that continue for the wind farm developers. Many opponents of projects know that "slowing is as good as stopping" in some cases.
Townships, counties and municipalities are also getting into the "slowing" movement of wind farm growth - with moratoriums. Moratoriums often allow communities to pause the development of wind farms while local zoning ordinances are rewritten or adjusted. The problem for wind farm developers is that these adjustments are almost always detrimental to siting wind projects. So now you need two public relations campaigns - one to educate the public on your actual project, and one to educate the public on the pitfalls of a moratorium. In my two decades of working on development projects, I have never seen a moratorium come "out of the blue". There is always a reason for such actions. So what are the best tools to promote your project, build support and avoid political defeat or stalling of a project?
GET DIGITAL – Use digital and grassroots campaign tactics to build support amongst members of the community and public officials. To kick off any digital campaign, prepare a thorough website that regularly updates residents, dispels new myths and disseminates new information. Website content should allow the audience to obtain key ideas on project details and benefits without having to do too much reading. Visuals and well-organized content are key to ensuring your message gets across. This website should also include a link that allows people to submit letters of support directly to public officials and elected leaders as well as provide downloadable fact sheets, and any other resources that may help advocates build support.
GET SOCIAL - Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have grown into powerful campaigning tools. Facebook and Twitter accounts dedicated to the renewable proposal offer enormous opportunity to reach community members organically through peer-to-peer information sharing. Any content posted should be bolstered as needed by social media marketing, which is both cost efficient and effective to introduce the proposal to new audiences. These ads will increase awareness and drive website traffic to continuously reach new segments of the population.
With an effective digital strategy, supporters can be educated and harnessed to action. Citizen support makes a huge difference at public hearings, and key advocates can write letters, provide media quotes, offer testimonials, display lawn signs and more to show support throughout the approval process. Digital platforms allow supporters to stay updated on the most important times to take action as well as the most effective means to ensure their voices are heard.
GET TO THE STAKEHOLDERS - Contacting stakeholder groups both locally and regionally to coordinate grassroots efforts can amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts, presentations to the organization’s members. Coordinating a call to action with stakeholders can greatly enhance support in a meaningful way.
Don't let your wind farm project succumb to delays, moratoriums and zoning defeat. Wind farm developers have many options, and a great story to tell.
President, Public Strategy Group
Al Maiorino, the President of Public Strategy Group, Inc.,is a public affairs executive presenting over two decades of success in his field.
Maiorino is a NIMBY expert, writer, and public affairs consultant who has made Public Strategy Group, Inc. a unique firm that goes beyond the traditional public affairs role of many firms. He has successfully run and won corporate campaigns involving land use difficulties, legislative advocacy issues for large and small companies ranging from Fortune 100 clients to smaller firms, and voter referendum campaigns.
He began his career as a political party operative and took the knowledge gained from a diversity of political campaigns to the corporate level over 20 years ago and formed Public Strategy Group, Inc. He has made PSG one of the few firms in the nation that specializes in building public support for development type projects, while also offering grassroots public affairs for corporate clients on legislative and regulatory issues. Throughout the years, he has managed hundreds of corporate public affairs campaigns in a variety of industries such as energy, gaming, shipping, tourism, cable television, retail development, auto racing, and housing/residential projects. His company has worked in twenty states, one U.S. Territory and three countries, and for over 20 years has helped companies gain approval on development projects totaling billions of dollars in investment.
He has authored many articles, and is a regular contributor to numerous trade journals and business periodicals.
Unless Al Maiorino lives in the middle of an Industrial Wind Facility, he has no room to criticize the people and families who ARE collateral damage to this money making scheme. Siting 500 - 600 ft machinery, that produces a cyclical whomping, thumping, whooshing, humming, tonality that makes it difficult to spend time outside let alone keeps people awake at night just 1,300 to 2,400 ft from the center of the home is complete greed. Sounds he is advocating ASTRO TURF! Below is an article from Nebraska that says it all! We are just beginning to understand the health effects on people and animals of the low frequency noise made by industrial wind turbines known as “infrasound.” The aerodynamic reflection from the blade when in alignment with the tower causes a “thump, thump, thump” that cannot be ignored. The sound, which is most disturbing at night, invades the quiet of our bedrooms and disturbs Nebraskans who are trying to sleep. The “shadow flicker” from the blades passing in front of the sun casts disorienting shadows in homes more than a mile from the turbine and causes vertigo and nausea and has been linked to migraine headaches. Many industries in the U.S. receive some kind of government subsidy, but the wind energy industry is 100 percent reliant on federal subsidy known as the production tax credit. Wind projects don’t farm the wind, they farm tax avoidance credits as confirmed by Warren Buffet who admitted, “That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” Under the current policy, the industry is forecasted to reap $24 billion in subsidies between 2016 and 2020 or electricity production subsidies – nearly double the subsidies planned for any other renewable option. None of these figures include the significant benefits granted the industry in the form of state production tax credits, lower local taxes, and ratepayer-funded transmission. Our country is over $20 trillion in debt. Why are we paying this kind of money for an intermittent source of electricity that only makes power about 30% of the time? Since wind power is intermittent, no amount of wind turbines installed in the U.S. will result in an existing “dirty” power plant being decommissioned nor will it negate the need to build reliable generation. Americans are being asked to pay for two energy systems, one that produces wind energy and the second that delivers reliable electricity. Obviously, this excess generation capacity costs money to build and operate and that cost gets added to the rate-payers bill. My legislative aide and I just spent ten days in Germany. The Germans are finding out the hard way how disruptive and costly reliance on wind power is. Catastrophic, cascading failure of the national power grid is now a daily struggle to prevent in Germany. Plans to decommission their last remaining nuclear power stations have been put on hold because of how unstable their power infrastructure has become. Connecting a wind farm to the grid often requires new powerlines and the use of eminent domain to forcibly take land from people to build a power line across their ground for no other reason than to cater to the wind developer. Despite NPPD denials, reports from their own meetings clearly state the “R Line” has been, “…proposed chiefly to provide access for wind energy developments in Cherry Co…” This project will tear through the heart of the most sensitive part of Nebraska’s Sandhills. Wind energy development in the Sandhills of Nebraska will cause damage to the ground (blowouts) that can never be mitigated or repaired. Wagon ruts from pioneers from over a century ago are still visible in the Sandhills. How can 20 semi-loads (just to put up the construction crane) cross the Sandhills without permanent damage? Countless more concrete trucks and loads of blades and tower sections will put a lasting scar on a place that has no equal in the world. Untold numbers of birds and bats are killed, including threatened and endangered species. The government even issues 30-year permits for the “taking” (killing) of bald and golden eagles. Siting hundreds of turbines in the Sand Hills with blades spinning at 200 mph at the tip presents a danger to flying creatures nothing else. The lost property value a neighbor to a wind turbine suffers is not compensated. Who would buy a house next to an industrial wind energy facility? The lost use of that portion of a neighbors ground inside the minimum safe distance from a wind turbine is not compensated. Wind Energy companies fight for the smallest set-back they can get to maximize the number of wind turbines they can build in an area with no regard for their neighbor’s property rights. Wind turbines run-off wildlife and spoil hunting in rural areas. They spoil pristine views and tourism. The promised boon in property tax revenue for local governments is over-rated and often doesn’t materialize as promised. Unless the local resident has the proper licensees and training certifications, the so-called “jobs” that are created by a wind energy development are taken by here-today-gone-tomorrow workers from out of State. One in four wind companies go bankrupt before their projects are even finished and are often bought by foreign investors. Much of the power wind energy does manage to generate in Nebraska won’t even be used in Nebraska. To add insult to injury, much of the wind energy generated in Nebraska won’t even be consumed in Nebraska. In the mad land rush to build turbines before the production tax credit runs out, local county governments are under a lot of pressure to approve the zoning and never think to require a surety bond be in place to fund the decommissioning costs for a wind turbine. As the turbine is retired and taken off line, many will stand there forever as monuments to greed and the short-sighted public policy that so often enables it. Electricity should be above all reliable and as economical as we can make it. Wind energy delivers neither. Wind energy is very harmful to the environment it is supposedly built to save. The only “green” in wind energy is the color of the money their powerful lobbyists loot from the tax payers. We shouldn’t build industrial wind energy projects anywhere near where people live. We should think really hard about throwing billions of tax dollars at another scheme that can never stand on its own, and only benefits a few lucky people at the expense of everyone else. We should think very hard about something that will permanently destroy an environmentally fragile and very unique place the Sandhills. At least Kansas was smart enough to protect about 11,000 square miles of their environmentally sensitive “Flint Hills” from the destruction wrought by industrial wind energy construction. We should do the same. Wind energy is a scam that hurts people. It’s not Nebraska Nice. Urge your State Senator to pass LB 504, my bill to protect the Sandhills.