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Momentum

Abstract

The development of low emission, high output electricity generation systems is a focal point of global efforts to reduce anthropogenic effects of climate change without compromising opportunities for economic and social growth. Applications of wind energy technologies for large-scale production have been effective in meeting electricity demand to varying degrees on the international scale. While the wind energy industry has grown significantly in the United States over the past decade, its contribution to overall production has been limited at both the national and local levels of implementation. Wind technologies‘ incompatibility with the national energy infrastructure is a major barrier to their incorporation into the overall US energy landscape. The current infrastructure was built around coal-fired systems, which have persisted as the primary means of meeting the electricity demand from the nineteenth century onward. Use of wind energy resources is constricted by inconsistencies with traditional development. I use traditional theories of technological change applied to the current electricity system in order to show how wind energy technologies challenge social conceptions of energy production and distribution. Opposition at the community level is often the lethal blow to major wind development projects, as I highlight through a case study of the first proposed offshore wind project in the US. Local interests groups reacting to threats wind farms pose to the town‘s economy, ecosystems, and social welfare are strong forces in the permitting and financing process. Just as national history of energy production influences the ability of wind power to compete with coal-fired electricity, regional histories shape cultural views of relationships between humans, nature, and resource use. Economic concerns arise based on the succession of dominant industries, each change altering the region‘s political and local interest group power hierarchies.

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