Skip to main content

Environmental justice and the expanding geography of wind power conflicts

Abstract

Wind power is expanding globally. Simultaneously, a growing number of conflicts against large-scale wind farms are emerging in multiple locations around the world. As these processes occur, new questions arise on how electricity from wind is being generated, how such energy is flowing within societies, and how these production-flows are being shaped by specific power structures. The present paper explores the expanding geography of wind energy conflicts by analyzing 20 case studies from across the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. Based on the Environmental Justice Atlas database, it reflects on how land pressures and patterns of uneven development emerge as two features of the current expansion of wind farms. Following a relational analysis, these patterns are examined to interpret the plural instances of opposition emerging throughout the rural spaces of the world. The article argues that previously unexplored forms of collective action are expanding the scope and content of the “wind energy debate”. In addition to the claims of “landscape” and “wildlife protection” addressed by the existing literature, this study sheds light on the rural/peripheral contexts where opposition emerges through the defense of indigenous territories, local livelihoods and communal development projects. The study contends that these “emerging storylines” embrace an environmental justice perspective when challenging the socially unequal and geographically uneven patterns reproduced by the ecological modernization paradigm. From this lens, cases of local opposition are not interpreted as selfish forces blocking a low-carbon transition, but instead, are understood as political instances that enable a wider discussion about the ways such transition should take place.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Own elaboration based on http://www.ejatlas.com

Fig. 2

Notes

  1. Note that as of now the inventory does not include any case in China, due to the inability of accessing to verifiable information.

  2. Some of the cases presented in the inventory were previously researched by other contributors of the EjAtlas. In those cases, information was verified and updated to produce homogeneous coverage of information, as much as possible. (cases in Colombia, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Slovenia and Kenya –Lamu-).

  3. Power Densities: Nuclear 4000 w/m2, Natural Gas 200-2,000 w/m2, Coal 100-1,000 w/m2; Solar Photovoltaic 4–10 w/m2; Wind 0.5 to 1.5 w/m2; Biomass 0.5–0.6 w/m2 (Smil 2008).

References

  • Acselrad H (2010) The “environmentalization” of social struggles, the environmental justice movement in Brazil. Estudos Avançados 24(68):103–119

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Agterbosch S, Glasbergen P, Vermeulen WJV (2007) Social barriers in wind power implementation in The Netherlands. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 11(6):1025–1055

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Anguelovski I, Martinez-Alier J (2014) The “environmentalism of the poor” revisited: Territory and place in disconnected global struggles. Ecol Econ 102:167–176

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Araújo R (2012) Moradores regaem a usinas eólicas. Tribuna do Norte. Published: 08/01/2012. http://www.tribunadonorte.com.br/noticia/moradores-reagem-a-usinas-eolicas/208373. Accessed on 03 Jan 17

  • Asara V, Otero I, Demaria F, Corbera E (2015) Socially sustainable degrowth as a social–ecological transformation: repoliticizing sustainability. Sustain Sci 10(3):375–384

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Avila-Calero S (2017) Contesting energy transitions: wind power and conflicts in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. J Political Ecol 24:993–1012

    Google Scholar 

  • Baka J (2013) The political construction of wasteland: governmentality, land acquisition and social inequality in South India. Dev Chang 44(2):409–428

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bankwatch Network (2010) Over the edge: Enel’s plans to export its pollution to Porto Romano, Albania. Available at: http://bankwatch.org/documents/PortoRomanoOverTheEdge.pdf. Accessed on 29 Mar 17

  • Bell D, Gray T, Haggett C (2005) The “social gap” in wind farm siting decisions: explanations and policy responses. Environ Politics 14:460–477

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Birdlife International (2017) Migratory Soaring Birds Project. http://migratorysoaringbirds.undp.birdlife.org/en/. Accessed on 01 Mar 2017

  • Bosley P, Bosley K (1992) Risks and benefits of wind generated electricity. Energy Sources 14:1–9

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bouzarovski S, Simcock N (2017) Spatializing energy justice. Energy Policy. In press

  • Bradley K, Hedrén J (2014) Utopian Thought in the Making of Green Futures. In: Bradley K, Hedrén J (eds) Green utopianism: perspectives, politics and micro-practices. Routledge, New York, pp 1–20

    Google Scholar 

  • Brand U (2016) “Transformation” as a new critical orthodoxy. The Strategic Use of the Term “Transformation”does not prevent multiple crises. GAIA 25(1): 23–27

  • Brey P (2017) Sustainable Technologies for Sustainable Lifestyles. In: Kaplan MD, Philosophy,technology and the environment. MIT Press Scholarship Online

  • Brown KB (2011) Wind power in northeastern Brazil: Local burdens, regional benefits and growing opposition. Clim Dev 3:344–360

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bryant RL (ed) (2015) the international handbook of political ecology. Edward Elgar, UK–USA

    Google Scholar 

  • Bryant RL, Bailey S (1997) Third world political ecology. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Bryant B, Mohai P (1992) Race and the incidence of environmental hazards: a time for discourse. Westview Press, U.S.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bullard R (1990) Dumping in dixie: race, class, andenvironmental quality. Westview Press, Boulder

    Google Scholar 

  • Calvert K (2016) From ‘energy geography’ to ‘energy geographies’. Perspectives on a fertile academic borderland. Prog Hum Geogr 40(1):105–112

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Centre for Science and the Environment-CSE (2013) EIA Guidelines Wind Power Sector, New Delhi

  • Chávez A (2014) Resistencia a las eólicas en Oaxaca. Donde el viento vale oro. Entrevista con Bettina Cruz Velázquez. En: La Jornada, Ojarasca, Published: 2014/10/11. http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2014/10/11/oja- viento.html. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras-COPINH (2011) Proyecto Eólico del Cerro de Hula destroza nuestras tierras y afecta nuestras vidas,agua y comunidades. Published: 03/11/2011. https://copinh.org/article/proyecto-eolico-del-cerro-de-hula-destroza-nuestra/. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Del Bene D, Scheidel A, Temper L (2018) More dams, moreviolence? A global analysis of resistance, repression and violence around dams. Sustainability Science, this feature

  • Demaria F, Schindler S (2016) Contesting urban metabolism: struggles over waste-to-energy in Delhi, India. Antipode 48:293–313

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Denholm P, Hand M, Jackson M, Ong S (2009) Land-use requirements of modern wind power plants in the United States. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, USA

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Dunlap A (2017) Wind energy: toward a “sustainable violence” in Oaxaca. NACLA Rep Am 49(4):483–488

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ejatlas (2014) Parque eólico Jepirachi, Colombia, In: Atlas of Environmental Justice. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/parque-eolico-jepirachi-colombia. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2015) Suzlon Energy windfarms in Kutch District, India, In: Atlas of Environmental Justice.http://ejatlas.org/conflict/suzlon-energy-in-kutch-district. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2016a) Proyecto eólico del Cerro de Hula, Honduras. Atlas of Environmental Justice. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/proyecto-eolico-del-cerro-de-hula-honduras. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2016b) Quilombola communities affected by wind power projects in Caetité region, Brazil. Atlas of Environmental Justice. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/quilombola-communities-affected-by-wind-power-projects-in-caetite-region-brazil. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2016c) Chiloé wind power project in Mapuche territory, Chile. Atlas of Environmental Justice. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/chiloe-wind-power-project-in-mapuche-territory. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2016d) Lake Turkana Project in Indigenous Territories, Kenya. Atlas of Environmental Justice. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/lake-turkana-project-in-indigenous-territories. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2016e) Movement against industrial Renewable Energy Resources (RES) in Chios, Greece. Atlas of Environmental Justice. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/movement-against-industrial-renewable-energy-resources-res-in-chios. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2016f) Large-scale Wind Farm in Sami reindeer land, Sweden. Atlas of Environmental Justice. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/large-scale-wind-farm-in-sami-reindeer-pastures. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2017a) Mareña Renovables in San Dionisio del Mar, Oaxaca, Mexico. Atlas of Environmental Justice. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/marena-renovables-in-san-dionisio-del-mar-oaxaca. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2017b) Corporate Wind Farms in Ixtepec vs community’s inititiative, Oaxaca, Mexico. In: Atlas of Environmental Justice. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/communal-members-of-ixtepec-contending-to-develop-a-wind-farm-cooperative. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2017c) Baleia Wind Power Complex in Ceará, Brazil. Atlas of Environmental Justice. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/baleia-wind-power-complex-in-ceara-brasil. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2017d) Wind Farms in the Sustainable Development Reserve of Ponta do Tubarão, Brazil. Atlas of Environmental Justice. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/wind-farms-in-the-sustainable-development-reserve-of-ponta-do-tubarao-brasil. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2017e) Tribals and wealthy residents against Cape Wind Farm, Massachusetts, USA. Atlas of Environmental Justice. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/tribal-opposition-against-cape-wind-farm. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2017f) Lamu Cordisons Wind Power Project, Kenya. Atlas of Environmental Justice. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/lamu-cordisons-wind-power-project-kenya. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2017g) Wind Power Plants in occupied territories of Western Sahara. Atlas of Environmental Justice. http://ejatlas.org/conflict/wind-power-plants-in-occupied-territories-of-western-sahara. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2017h) Unlawful removal of olive trees and wind energy project in Karaburun, Turkey. Atlas of Environmental Justice. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/unlawful-removal-of-olive-trees-and-wind-energy-project-in-karaburun-turkey. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2017i) Wind Farm Installation in the Protected Area of Karaburuni Peninsula, Albania. Atlas of Environmental Justice. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/wind-farm-installation-in-the-protected-area-of-karaburuni-peninsula-albania. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ejatlas (2017j) Wind farm at Volovja reber, Slovenia. Atlas of Environmental Justice. https://ejatlas.org/conflict/wind-farm-at-volovja-reber-slovenia. Accessed on 29 March 17

  • Ellis G, Barry J, Robinson C (2006) Renewable energy and discoursesof objection: towards deliberative policy making. Report of ESRC research project by Queen’s University, Belfast. https://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/REDOWelcome/filestore/Filetoupload,40561,en.pdf

  • Escobar A (2008) Territories of difference: place, movements, life, redes. Duke University Press, Durham

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • EPAW (2015) European platform against windfarms, Despite the judicial decisions that were commissioned to stop the Karaburun WPP, on the 13th of June the investor Lodos A.S started to run the German ENERCON turbines again. Available at: http://www.epaw.org/echoes.php?lang=el&article=n347. Accessed 29 Mar 2017

  • Fairhead J, Leach M, Scoones I (2012) Green Grabbing: a new appropriation of nature? J Peasant Stud 39(2):237–261

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fauset C (2010) The techno-fix approach to climate change and the energy crisis, issues and alternatives. In: Abramsky K Sparking a worldwide energy revolution: social struggles in the transition to a post-petrol world. AK Press, USA, pp 300–310

    Google Scholar 

  • Foyer J, Dumoulin KD (2015) The environmentalism of NGOs versus environmentalism of the poor? Mexico’s social-environmental coalitions. In: Almeida P, Cordero UA (eds) Handbook of Social Movements across Latin America. Springer, New York–London, pp 223–235

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Gillard R, Gouldson A, Paavola J, Van Alstine J (2016) Transformational responses to climate change: beyond a systems perspective of social change in mitigation and adaptation. WIREs Clim Chang 7:251–265

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gómez-Baggethun E, Naredo JM (2015) In search of lost time: the rise and fall of limits to growth in international sustainability policy. Sustain Sci 10:385–395

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harrison C (2013) The historical–geographical construction of power: electricity in Eastern North Carolina. Local Environ 18(4):469–486

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hawken P, Lovins A, Lovins H (1999) Natural capitalism: creating the next industrial revolution. Little, Brown & Company, Boston

    Google Scholar 

  • Holifield R, Chakraborty J, Walker G (2018) The Routledge handbook of environmental justice. Routledge, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Hornborg A (2014) why solar panels don’t grow on trees. In: Bradley K, Hedrén J (eds) Green Utopianism: Perspectives, Politics and Micro-Practices. Routledge, New York, pp 76–97 technological utopianism and the uneasy relation between marxism and ecological economics.

    Google Scholar 

  • Huber M (2015) Theorizing energy geographies. Geogr Compass. pp 1–12

  • Ioannis Fyrippis I, Axaopoulos PJ, Panayiotou G (2010) Wind energy potential assessment in Naxos Island. Greece Appl Energy 87:577–586

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jessup B (2010) Plural and hybrid environmental values: a discourse analysis of the wind energy conflict in Australia and the United Kingdom. Environ Politics 19:21–44

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kallis G, Demaria F, Dalisa G (2014) Introduction. In: D’alisa G, Demaria F, Kallis G Degrowth: a vocabulary for a new era. Routledge, Oxxon, pp 28–45

    Google Scholar 

  • Kothari A, Demaria F, Acosta A (2014) Buen vivir, degrowth and ecological swaraj: alternatives to sustainable development and the green economy. Development 57(3):362–375

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Martinez-Alier J (2009) Social Metabolism, Ecological Distribution Conflicts, and Languages of Valuation. Capital Nat Social 20:58–87

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Martínez-Alier J (2002) The environmentalism of the poor: a study of ecological conflicts and valuation. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Martínez-Alier J (2012) Environmental Justice and Economic Degrowth: an alliance between two movements. Capital Nat Social 23(1):51–73

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCarthy J (2015) A socioecological fix to capitalist crisis and climate change? The possibilities and limits of renewable energy. Environ Plan A 47:2485–2502

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Merlinsky MG (2015) Los conflictos ambientales y el debate público sobre el desarrollo en Argentina. Ciencia e Investigación 65(3):5–17

    Google Scholar 

  • Mitchell T (2011) Carbon democracy: political power in the age of oil. Verso, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Mol A (1996) Ecological modernisation and institutionalreflexivity: environmental reform in the late modern age. Environ Politics 5:302–323

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mol A, Sonnenfeld D (2000) Ecological modernisation around the world. Environ Politics 9(1)

  • Momoh JA, Meliopoulos S, Saint R (2012) Centralized and distributed generated power systems. A comparison approach. PSERC-Howard University. Available at: http://www.vernimmen.com/ftp/An_introduction_to_distributed_generation.pdf. Accessed 3 Jan 2017

  • Newell P, Mulvaney D (2013) The political economy of the ‘just transition’. Geogr J 179:132–140

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • OECD/IEA (2014) The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Energy Agency. Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2014, Executive Summary, France

  • Osland O (2016) Ecological modernisation revisited in Norway. World Political Sci 12:347–371

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pasqualetti MJ (2011) Opposing wind energy landscapes: a search for common cause. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 101:907–917

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pasqualetti MJ, Gipe P, Righter RW (2002) A landscape of power. In: Pasqualetti MJ, Gipe P, Righter RW (eds) Wind power in view: energy landscapes in a crowded world. Academic Press, Cambridge, pp 3–16

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Penndorf SB (2015) The Renewable Energy Market is Evolving. Here’s How. Rocky Mountain Institute. Published: 11/02/2015. Last consulted: 06/01/2017

  • Pérez-Rincón M, Vargas-Morales J, Crespo-Marín J (2017) Trends in social metabolism and environmental conflicts in four Andean countries from 1970 to 2013. Sustain Sci. pp 1–14

  • Perreault T, Bridge G, McCarthy J (2015) The Routledge handbook of political ecology. Routledge, Oxon-NY

    Google Scholar 

  • Petrova AM (2013) NIMBYism revisited: public acceptance of wind energy in the United States. Wiley interdisciplinary reviews. Clim Chang 4:575–601

    Google Scholar 

  • REN21 (2016) Renewable energy policy network for the 21st century. Renewables 2016 global status report, France

  • Rignall K, Atia L (2016) The global rural: relational geographies of poverty and uneven development. Geogr Compass (11)

  • Robbins P (2004) Political ecology. Blackwell, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Rocheleau DE (2015a) Roots, rhizomes, networks and territories: reimagining pattern and power in political ecologies. In: Bryant RL (ed) The International Handbook of Political Ecology. Edward Elgar, UK–USA, pp 70–89

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Rocheleau DE (2015b) Networked, rooted and territorial: green grabbing and resistance in Chiapas. J Peasant Stud 42:695–723

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rojas GJC (2012) Conflictos ambientales por medidas de mitigación al cambio climático en territorio Wayuu: el Parque Eólico Jepirachi, 1999–2011, Colombia. Tesis de Magister en Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo. Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Instituto de Estudios Ambientales, Colombia

    Google Scholar 

  • Sawyer S (2004) Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador. Duke University Press, Durham

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Scheidel A, Sorman A (2012) Energy transitions and the global land rush: ultimate drivers and persistent consequences. Glob Environ Change 22:588–595

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scheidel A, Temper L, Demaria F, Martinez-Alier J (2018)Ecological distribution conflicts as forces for sustainability: an overview and conceptual framework. Sustainability Science, this feature

  • Schlosberg D (2013) Theorising environmental justice: the expanding sphere of a discourse. Environ Politics 22:37–55

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scoones I (2016) The politics of sustainability and development. Annu Rev Environ Resour 41:293–319

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smil V (2008) Energy in nature and society: general energetics of complex systems. The MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Smil V (2016) What I See When I See a Wind Turbine. IEEE Spectrum. http://www.vaclavsmil.com/wp-content/uploads/15.WINDTURBINE.pdf

  • Smith E, Klick H (2007) Explaining NIMBY opposition to wind power. Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston. http://www.polsci.ucsb.edu/faculty/smith/wind.pdf

  • Sovacool B, Dworkin MH (2015) Energy justice: conceptual insights and practical applications. Appl Energy 142:(2015) 435–444

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Špirić J (2017) Ecological distribution conflicts and sustainability: lessons from the post-socialist European semi-periphery. Sustain Sci this feature:1–16

    Google Scholar 

  • Swyngedouw E (2010) Apocalypse Forever? Post-political populism and the spectre of climate change. Theor Cult Soc 27:213–232

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Swyngedouw E (2011) Whose environment? The end of nature, climate change and the process of post-politization. Ambiente Sociedade XIV:69–87

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Szarka J (2007) Wind power in Europe: politics, business and society. Palgrave, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Temper L, Del Bene D, Martinez-Alier J (2015) Mapping the frontiers and frontlines of environmental justice: the EJatlas. J Political Ecol 22:255–278

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thayer RL, Freeman C (1987) ‘Altamont: public perceptions of a wind energy landscape’. Landsc Urban Plann 14:379–398

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thayer RL, Hansen H (1991) Wind farm siting conflicts in California: implications for energy policy. Center for Design Research, University of California, California

    Google Scholar 

  • Toke D, Strachan PA (2006) Ecological modernization and wind power in the UK. Eur Environ 16:155–166

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Trainer T (2014) Some inconvenient theses. Energy Pol 64:168–174

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walker G (2009) Globalizing environmental justice: the geography and politics of frame contextualization and evolution. Glob Soc Pol 9:355–382

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weale A (1992) New politics of pollution. Manchester University Press, Manchester

    Google Scholar 

  • Wolsink M (2000) Wind power and the NIMBY-myth: institutional capacity and the limited significance. Renew Energy 21:40–64

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yenneti K, Day R, Golubchikov O (2016) Spatial justice and the land politics of renewables: dispossessing vulnerable communities through solar energy mega-projects. Geoforum 76:90–99

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zografos C, Martinez-Alier J (2009) The politics of landscape value: a case study of wind farm conflict in rural Catalonia. Environ Plan 41:1726–1744

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The author is financially supported by CONACYT-Postgraduate Research Grant. This article was developed within the ENVJUSTICE Project (European Research Council/No 695446). Thanks to the editors of the Special Feature: “The EJAtlas: Ecological Distribution Conflicts as Forces for Sustainability”. Thanks to Joan Martínez-Alier, Leah Temper, Alevgul Sorman, Gonzalo Gamboa and Lewis King for supporting the writing process. Special thanks to the two anonymous reviewers who engaged with the manuscript providing valuable insights. Any error remains on the author.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sofia Avila.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Handled by Leah Temper, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Avila, S. Environmental justice and the expanding geography of wind power conflicts. Sustain Sci 13, 599–616 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-018-0547-4

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-018-0547-4

Keywords

  • Wind energy
  • Land pressures
  • Uneven development
  • Ecological modernization
  • Conservationism
  • Environmental justice.