Tackling NIMBY is part of my current job at Pondera, a consultancy firm that assists in realising onshore and offshore wind energy. Among many other services, we perform site feasibility assessments, noise studies and energy yield calculations. In short, our job is to find a balance between optimal energy production and the negative impacts that a wind farm’s neighbours could experience.
It is a careful balancing act. While it might be easy to dismiss claims of noise or landscape pollution as ‘minor issues’, it is vital to understand that a company or co-operative developing a wind farm endeavours to build something that will change someone’s direct environment. A bad case of wind farm development might feel the same as a neighbour entering your house and suggesting to re-design your kitchen while already ripping out the flooring and installing a brand-new induction cooking plate. Even though this re-design might be prettier, more spacious, or more sustainable, it feels like you are forced to give up some of your own autonomy. A better alternative would be if you and your neighbour discuss these plans beforehand and if your neighbour makes clear appointments about the re-design. As a wind farm developer, it is a good thing to recognize that keeping all parties informed and involved might not only be the path of lesser resistance, but it might also be the shorter path to realising your project.
At Pondera, we search to identify significant adverse environmental impacts that arise during the development of a wind farm project. Because space is scarce in the Netherlands, we often face complex issues: how to build a wind farm next to vital flood defences while ensuring the defences’ safety? How to account for shadow flicker near a future housing project? How to deal with wind energy near a busy bird migration route? We identify and solve these issues during an environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure, which is one of the key instruments that influences decision-making before receiving the final permits.
However well-crafted your wind farm project may be, a certain number of opponents will be against your plan. There will always be someone who complains about the noise of a wind turbine 5 kilometres away, while living next to a busy motor way. We must nevertheless listen carefully and address the worries that people have, so we can build a robust plan that creates enough support in the local community to be able to receive the required permits from the municipal council.
I can imagine that NIMBY still serves as a major example of the Sustainable Innovation BSc during the university’s open days. And as NIMBY remains - and probably increases as renewable energy becomes more visible - it is a necessity to learn from the bad examples and exploit the good ones.
If you wish to pursue a career in the wind energy sector or at Pondera, feel free to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.