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Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects
of all possible human impacts from wind-energy projects. For example, we have not addressed potentially significant social impacts on community cohesion, sometimes exacerbated by differences in community make-up (e.g., differences in values and in amounts and sources of wealth between newcomers and long-time residents). Also not covered are psychological impacts—positive as well as negative—that can arise in confronting a controversial project (Gramling and Freudenburg 1992; NRC 2003). We have not focused on these matters because they can vary greatly from one local region or project site to another; and also as a function of population density and local and regional economic, social, and economic conditions; and in other ways. As a result, it is very difficult to generalize about them. In addition, not covered in this chapter but discussed elsewhere in this report (see especially Chapter 2) are diffuse health and economic effects of wind-energy projects. The topics covered in this chapter are, however, the chief local environmental impacts that have been recognized to date.
Thus far, there has been relatively little dispassionate analysis of the human impacts of wind-energy projects. Much that has been written has been from the vantage points of either proponents or opponents. There also are few data that have been systematically gathered on these impacts. In the absence of extensive data, this chapter is focused mainly on appropriate methods for analysis and assessment and on recommended practices in the face of uncertainty. Several of the methods discussed follow general principles and practice in socioeconomic impact assessments conducted as part of environmental impact statements; nevertheless, the chapter is tailored to the potential local human impacts of wind-energy projects and to their predominantly rural settings.
Wind-energy projects, like other potentially controversial developments, vary in their social context and thus in their social complexity. In this chapter, comments and methodological recommendations are directed toward relatively complex wind-energy facilities such as those being proposed for the Mid-Atlantic Highlands. While still applicable to smaller, less controversial installations, recommended methods should be simplified accordingly.
Aesthetics is often a primary reason for expressed concern about wind-energy projects (Figure 4-1). Unfortunately, few regulatory review processes adequately address aesthetic issues, and far fewer address the unique aesthetic issues associated with wind-energy projects in a rational manner. This section begins by describing some of the aesthetic issues associated with wind-energy projects. It then discusses existing methods for identifying visual resources and evaluating visual impacts in general, and it