A key obstacle to the wide-scale development of renewable energy is that public acceptability of wind energy cannot be taken for granted when wind energy moves from abstract support to local implementation. Drawing on a case study of opposition to the siting of a proposed off-shore wind farm in Northern Ireland, we offer a rhetorical analysis of a series of representative documents drawn from government, media, pro- and anti-wind energy sources, which identifies and interprets a number of discourses of objection and support. The analysis indicates that the key issue in terms of the transition to a renewable energy economy has little to do with the technology itself. Understanding the different nuances of pro- and anti-wind energy discourses highlights the importance of thinking about new ways of looking at these conflicts. These include adopting a “conflict resolution” approach and “upstreaming” public involvement in the decision-making process and also the counter-productive strategy of assuming that objection is based on ignorance (which can be solved by information) or NIMBY thinking (which can be solved by moral arguments about overcoming “free riders”).

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