restricted access Wind Turbines and Invisible Technology: Unarticulated Reasons for Local Opposition to Wind Energy

Local opposition to wind turbines stems from concerns about environmental and economic damage, as well as conflicts between rural and urban residents. This essay goes beyond these considerations to explore the often-unarticulated explanations for animosity toward this energy technology. Originally, it posits that opposition to visually obvious turbines arises from the successful history of an electric utility system that made its product largely invisible in its manufacture and physical manifestation. The existence of conspicuous turbines, however, reminds observers that power generation requires difficult choices in a technology-based society. The system’s previous achievement in hiding infrastructural elements, in other words, sometimes works ironically to spur objections to wind turbines. Receiving little historical study, the concealed features of a system’s infrastructure often influence assessments of technologies. By revealing the previously invisible, this essay, which draws on research in history, landscape architecture, geography, and psychology, therefore provides insights for social scientists and policymakers.