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Discourses of on-farm wind energy generation in the UK farming press

Holstead, Kirsty L., Galán-Díaz, Carlos, Sutherland, Lee-Ann
Journal of environmental policy & planning 2017 v.19 no.4 pp. 391-407
clean energy, farmers, farms, issues and policy, news media, production technology, rural development, tariffs, wind, wind power, wind turbines, United Kingdom
As the owners of the majority of land in the U.K., farmers are well placed to contribute to renewable energy targets. Media coverage can both drive and reflect farmers’ views about renewable energy but has been largely unexplored to date. This article uses discourse analysis to examine the evolution of coverage of one form of renewable energy – on-farm wind – in the U.K. farming press from 1980 to 2013. We identified a diverse debate with five major discourses. On-farm wind turbines are alternatively represented as: profitable farm diversification opportunities; producers of clean energy; important for rural development and sources of conflict. Although press coverage predominantly encourages wind energy production, a further discourse advises farmers to ‘Proceed with Caution’. While emphasising images and values which have widespread affinity among U.K. farmers, the press have increasingly employed an economic frame, constructing wind energy generation as a farm diversification strategy. The most recent farming press coverage predominantly encourages an instrumental approach to wind energy, crowding out other (non-economic) rationales and marginalising local community concerns. This appears to reflect the financial orientation of recent policy support (particularly Feed-in Tariffs), and may have long-term costs in enabling sustainable energy production systems.