The intricate relationship between energy transitions and regional marginalisation – insights from wind farm developments in rural Germany and Denmark

Matthias Naumann , David Philipp Rudolph

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


Rural areas play a major role in the local realisation of a successful energy transition, as this is where most renewable energy infrastructures are being established. In particular, the large-scale construction of wind farms is increasingly changing many rural areas. The devel¬opment of wind farms has not only resulted in the emergence of wind energy landscapes in terms of their physical-material and aesthetic appearance, but also altered the economic foundation and geography of rural areas. Therefore, wind farms as increasingly mature renewable energy facilities have become an important issue in many rural areas, especially in countries with an advanced wind energy sector, such as Denmark and Germany. Despite being forerunners in wind energy deployment, local initiatives are on the rise in both countries and numerous protest groups are increasingly campaigning against wind power developments.In this paper we seek to illuminate structural problems of rural regions as a particular facet of local protests against the establishment of wind energy plants, and discuss how energy transitions and their contestation are embedded in general features of rural development.Whilst uneven geographies of development have put rural areas under constant pressure resulting in economic decline, infrastructural deficits and outmigration, the development of wind farms is meant to have the potential to ‘repower’ areas in which they are sited through channelling voluntary benefit-shar¬ing and a redistribution of revenues from electricity and heat generation to local communities. However, a fruitful embedding of wind farms in a local rural economic setting and regional development efforts have only been achieved to a limited extent (Munday et al.2011; Ejdemo & Söderholm 2015).In this paper we intend to show how energy transition, based on the siting of wind turbines, is being realised in mar¬ginalised rural areas in North Eastern Germany and Western Denmark and argue that there is a mismatch between the claimed regional development potential and its practical implementation.This research draws on case studies from both Germany and Denmark and builds on a number of qualitative research methods, such as interviews with wind farm developers, municipal planners, opposition groups and energy initiatives as well as observations at public hearings and workshops.Instead of addressing uneven development (Harvey 2005), current wind farm development practices and regulatory benefit schemes tend to result in manifes¬tations of a rural-urban divide, a regional ‘coloniali¬sation’ between sites of energy production and sites of energy consumption, and tensions between local beneficiaries and those bearing the costs.By drawing on notions of distributional and procedural energy justice (Sovacool & Dworkin 2015; Jenkins et al.2016), we will show that this mismatch is a significant source of protests against wind energy infrastructures in the rural context.While short-sighted NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) rationales are still prevalent in the narratives of developers and planners, we show how counter-ra¬tionales of local protests go beyond pejorative NIMBY accusations and rather scrutinise the disconnection between wind farm projects and rural development efforts and reflect contrasting imaginaries of rurality.We conclude that the contestation surrounding the planning and development of wind farms in rural areas illustrates the infrastructural dimension of spatial justice as well as questions of energy justice at a regional scale.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventEuropean Rural Geographies Conference 2017 - Braunschweig, Germany
Duration: 14 Jun 201717 Jun 2017


ConferenceEuropean Rural Geographies Conference 2017
Internet address


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