To understand social attitudes towards macro-generation of renewable energies, namely solar and wind power plants, by examining the social consensus and controversies around these technologies in Portugal. The research problem will be examined at two levels, national and local.

National framework

Aims: to build a wide-ranging picture of the actions and discourses of the social actors involved: politicians, policy makers, business companies, environmental NGOs, other organisations from the civil society, scientists.

Analysis: the processes of developing policies and incentives, of planning and making decisions about specific locations, of addressing competing interests and values. Particular attention will be paid to the recourse to scientific advice and argumentation and to how citizen participation in deliberative procedures is envisaged.

Methodology: document analysis and semi-structured interviews to key informants. A thorough scrutiny of Environmental Impact Assessments of wind and solar farms will play a key role in this assignment. This undertaking will be complemented by two other extensive analyses: an assessment of how media portray the issue of renewable energies and wind and solar farms in particular, by collecting and examining news articles and by interviewing journalists; a study of public opinion trends regarding renewable energies, based on data available from international and national surveys.

Local level

Aims: conducting case studies of localities close to wind farms and solar power plants, chosen according to the data collected in the previous stage, with a concern for geographical diversity as well as for the different local characteristics.

Analysis: socioeconomic effects of the wind and solar power plants on the perceptions and behaviours of local communities regarding social and economic advantages and disadvantages, environmental and health risks, transformations in landscape and land use, representations of technology and of renewable energies; on the tensions and conflicts, as well as the negotiations and compromises achieved between local stakeholders; and on the interactions between citizens and experts, examining the dialogue and exchanges between different types of knowledge.

Methodology: document analysis, interviews, ethnographic fieldwork and workshops with local stakeholders

The global aim of the project is to produce scientifically sound but also socially relevant knowledge, that can provide information that can be used to improve science and society relations and to promote citizen participation in socio-technical decision making.