Dissertation: Emotional connection and involvement in decision-making significantly impact acceptability of wind power

Surveys indicate that the public generally accepts wind power and even desires its increase. However, people often oppose local wind power development. The dissertation of Sari Janhunen, MA, entitled Determinants of the local acceptability of wind power in Finland explores aspects that influence how wind power is accepted locally.

Sari Janhunen, 50, studied environmental science at the University of Kuopio and became interested in how people accept investments when she worked as Environmental Inspector for the City of Lappeenranta. At the time, Lappeenranta had initiated the first analyses and permit processes for wind power development, and the related instructions by national authorities were still in their infancy.

Finns have an exceptional relationship with nature

"Internationally, the acceptability of wind power has been studied for decades, but my day job inspired me to examine the special features of the phenomenon in Finland. Finns have an exceptional relationship with nature, and our country is sparsely populated," Janhunen explains the background of her study.

Throughout her adult life, Janhunen has pondered how to enhance the acceptability of environmentally sustainable projects that curb climate change and how to overcome obstacles to renewable energy investments.

"When I started my research, I imagined I would develop a formula or model that could be applied to any project at any location. It took me a while to understand that this wasn't possible from my research perspective. Moreover, improving the acceptability of a given production approach would not have been in the interest of independent or in-depth research."

Janhunen employed statistical research methods, interviews and surveys. Her material included, for instance, sound measurements at the Muukonkangas wind farm in Lappeenranta and the assessment of a hypothetical project in the Finnish Lakeland based on image manipulations. The acceptability of projects was examined in different communities – also among respondents with no genuine connection to the area.

The results indicate that the local acceptability of wind power can be elicited for example by taking the residents' emotions and expectations into account.  "Development projects should reserve sufficient time and resources for hearing the local community and involving its members in the project."

People's attitudes should be considered alongside technological solutions

Janhunen, currently working as the Environmental Manager of the Municipality of Vihti, believes her research results will be advantageous also in other energy production projects. "People's attitudes should be considered alongside technological solutions when new, often abstract phenomena are introduced in a community with the hope of evoking changes in behaviour. Residents are typically rather passive, and decision-makers need to find the wisdom to activate them at the right time and in the right way," Janhunen sums up.

Additional information:
Sari Janhunen, sari.janhunen@vihti.fi

Public examination:
The dissertation of Sari Janhunen, Master of Arts, entitled Determinants of the local acceptability of wind power in Finland will undergo a public examination on 8 June 2018 at 12:00 noon in the auditorium of LUT's Student Union House. The opponent will be Vilja Varho, Docent and Senior Scientist of the Natural Resources Institute Finland. Professor Lassi Linnanen from Lappeenranta University of Technology will be acting as the custos.

The dissertation has been published in the university's publication series Acta Universitatis Lappeenrantaensis, publication number 796. ISBN 978-952-335-229-2, ISBN 978-952-335-230-8 (PDF) and ISSN 1456-4491. The dissertation is available in the LUTPub database of Lappeenranta University of Technology at http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-335-230-8. Printed copies can be purchased from the Aalef bookstore, tel. +358 44 744 5511 or kirjakauppa(at)aalef.fi, and from the LUT Shop online store at https://lutshop.lut.fi.