Stakeholder Management in Wind Power Projects

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Developed by Robin Hertenberger

Because of its environmental friendliness and economic feasibility, the worldwide number of wind farms has been increasing for several years now. Although wind energy is a mature technique for producing green energy, every particular construction project is a complex undertaking with special needs regarding planning and execution to assure its continued spread and cost effectiveness. Due to its complexity, a wind power project involves a large number of different parties. Alongside with a high number of proponents of wind power, there are many opponents for different reasons as well. All of those have to be handled with individual sensitiveness in order to ensure the project´s successful completion. Therefore they have to be involved during the whole construction process and have to be kept informed right from the beginning when the project idea was born. It is of prime importance to guarantee taking the affected people into account, handling them the right way and ensuring their satisfaction about the wind farm during the whole development and construction process. Thus, this article not only describes the stakeholders which should be observed, but also how they have to be dealt with to ensure the project´s success.

In consideration of the worldwide extension of wind energy and the growing of local resistance against such projects, focussing on an optimal stakeholder management is more essential then ever. [1]

Windpark Westereems[2]



Wind Power Projects in General

From the general idea about building a wind farm to its completion and the start of its operation, it takes up to several years. Thus, there are many possibilities for taking the wind out of the project´s sails and, as a consequence, causing delays during the development and construction process. For understandig the stakeholder management in wind power projects and to enable its placement in the whole lifecycle of a wind farm, figure 1 shows all the different steps from the initiation phase across its planning and design process to the actual constrction and the later starting operation of the wind park. [3]

Figure 1: Phases and Steps of wind farm planning and development [3]

During the initiation process the company which intends to build a wind farm, resepctively its project developer, has to find a suitable site for implementing the undertaking. Therefore, criteria such as the size of the possible area, land ownership issues and impacts on local communities have to be considered. Most of all the available wind resource influences the decision where the farm ultimately will be erected.

The successive planning phase deals with the overall project organisation and implementation. Various ecisions, for instance concerning the financing of the projects, the final park layout and the turbines have to be made. Furthermore, legal matters regarding land purchases, contracts with suppliers and regulatory concerns have to be taken into consideration.

In the third phase the actual establishment on the wind farm is the main issue. The delivery contracts on the turbines, the foundations and the park infrastructure have to be concluded to guarantee the beginning of the work on the construction site. The potential of the grid connection which has to be established later has to be assured as well. At the end of the construction phase several tests concerning the operational reliability have to be conducted to get the operational permit granted.

The operation term of the wind farm normally extends to 20 years. During this period the main focus lies on maintenance and repairs for reaching an availability which is as high as possible. This leads again to a high electricity output and a high rentability for the park owner(s).

After the planned park lifetime there is the possiblity to re-power the installed wind turbines by conducting larger maintenance actions or even changing the whole wind generators. If there is only a lease agreement with the owner of the wind farm ground with a fixed duration which the contract parties are not willing to extend, the turbines and the whole park infrastructure have to be removed and the fields have to be re-established to the point of departure.

Stakeholders and Stakeholder Management

Stakeholders referring to projects are persons or organizations with a qualified interest in the planning, the execution and the outcome of a certain undertaking. These people have firstly to be identified before their needs and expectations regarding the project can be spotted. Attention should be paid on the broad variety of backgrounds the different parties have, since they directly influence their opinion and their approach. Thus, stakeholder management means the process of identification the affeced people and groups, analyzing their attitude towards the project and developing strategies for communicating with them. The aim is to minimize their negative impacts in order to ensure the achievement of the project´s goals and to build up harmonious relationships as a base for a conjoint interaction. [4]

Stakeholder Analysis

In order to analyze the attitude and the influence of different stakeholders affected by the project, a detailed analysis of these people and groups has to be carried out. [5] Generally, a differentiation between internal and external stakeholders is necessary for getting a general idea about the parties who are involved in the project. Whereas internal stakeholders are directly involved, for instance investors as they hold shares in the wind farm, external ones are mostly interested because of the effects the undertaking has on their environment and their interests. As an example one could mention the people living in the surounding of the wind turbines. Investors, of course, have also a special interest in the projects earnings because of the money they placed. That is why they are stakeholders and shareholders at the same time. Suppliers and construction companies who provide the required materials and build the wind farm are internal stakeholders as well.

Stakeholder Mapping

For mapping the people involved in the project, the Power/Influence Matrix is a suitable tool to ensure taking them into consideration. This method aims to not only show the different stakeholders and their levels of power and interest but also to assist with developing suitable proceedings and strategies for interacting with them. The Power/Interest Matrix analyzes both the level of interest of the stakeholders and their power to add authority to their intentions. By applying this method of stakeholder mapping, project managers are able to have a closer look on the environment of the intended construction undertaking. As a further step, potential reactions regarding certain project activities can be identified and suitable solutions for interacting can be developed. Depending on the power and interest of a particular group, different ways of handling have to be found in order to minimize risks based on negative reactions of those people which could harm the project. [6]

Figure 2: Stakeholder Power/Interest Matrix [6]

Levels of Interaction

1. Inform

This way of interacting with affected stakeholders is the one with the minimal effort. As such it is used for stakeholders with lower power and lower interest. They need to be informed, for instance about the next steps of the decision making phase, changes in the project cycle or about current activities which are going on at the construction site.

2. Consult

This is the suitable strategy for dealing with people or groups with a higher influence but a lower importance. In this context consulting means detecting their opinions and including input from them concerning key decisions of the project, however, the general strategy will usually not be changed.

3. Involve

Stakeholders of higher power and lower interest have to be involved in the project as long as their satisfcation about particular actions are needed. Therefore, their concerns have to be both understood and implemented in the decisions. If there are any changes during the project lifecycle the particular interests of these people or groups have to be considered again. This procedure ensures a more passive than active behaviour and avoides problems.

4. Collaborate

Primary stakeholders have both a high power and a high interest. Their interest is shwow by their willingness to paricipate in the project and the decisons which have to be made. To increase their engagement and keep up their satisfaction they should be treated as partners. The overall goal of this strategy is winning their support to ensure an uninterupted project progress.

Identified Stakeholders According to Wind Power


Naturally, the main purpose of a project is the client´s satisfaction which has to be essentially reached by fulfilling the contract between the project management organization and the project owner. Therefore, the most necessary action preceding the actual project is the clarification process which aims to create a collective starting basis for launching the planned undertaking. This basis normally consists of a project description which includes both the shared goals (e.g time for finishing the project and costs) and the more detailed plan of the

Neighbours of the Wind Farm

The Inhabitants of the surrounding area of the wind farm are affected in a special way. They do not only have to accept the changes in the landscape around their houses, but also the possible noise emissions of the wind turbines. This group of stakeholders is departed in two subgroups: on the one hand, there are the supporters of wind energy who do not only accept the wind mills in their neigbourhood, but sometimes even look at them as magnificient signs of a innovative change happening in the field of energy generation. On the other hand, however, we can find also many opponents of wind farms who see projects like those as a threat to the nature, the environment and the animals living in the area the wind farm is going to be constructed in. An important point in this context is the level of information which differs from group to group as well as from person to person. Therefore, a general information campaign has to be started in the early days of the project initiation and planning process, as soon as possible sites for the erection of the wind turbines have been found.

The Public

For the other people as consumers of electricity it is primarily not important from which source the power they use for lighting and heating their houses comes from. However, they also have to be subdivided into two different kinds of customers as well: the one group which does not care about the origin of the energy they use, and the second one which really strives towards a supply with green energy in form of regenerative produced electricity. Especially regarding the members of the first category, a huge lack of knowledge can lead to negative developments like collections of signatures, for instance. To make sure that no kind of complaint arises from the dissatisfaction of the people, displeasure has to be avoided wherever possible by providing the interested ones with suitable material and making them feel involved in the actual decision making process.


Building wind turbines on the land cultivated by farmers means a change for them in how they are able to grow their crop plants. Therefore it is necessary to get in touch with them as early as possible and looking for a dialogue. During the whole lifecycle of the wind farm the cultivators of the surrounding land have to be kept informed. Furthermore, their interests have to be respected, for instance if there were any further measures such as maintenance, repairs or even repowering actions which affect the farmer´s grop growing.

Land Owners

For the owners of the land adapted for generating wind energy, the intention to build and operate wind turbines is often a most welcome chance to maximize the rentability of the affected ground by another lease. Problems which might let the land owner hesitate to assent to the construction project can occur when good relationships within the neigbourhood are at stake. In order to ensure a mutual agreement of all the directly involved parties in the vicinity of the project area, a mediation process is often of essential importance.


By investing in wind power projects, people are pursuing different objectives. Some just want to make money through purchasing shares of a particular wind farm which offers them a certain rate of return. Others intend to support the change in energy provision and to care about the environment their living in. In general, both types of investors have to be handled the same way: After acquiring them for the establishment of the financial base of the project, they have to be kept informed and long-lasting satisfied about the decision they made by delivering signs of progress from time to time.

Environmental Considerations

Before starting the actual planning process of the project, several investigations about the nature next to the wind farm have to be conducted. In this context environment organizations might appear at this point of the project development process, which have to be considered as well. The main environmental interests are often belonging to animals such as birds and bats, which are threatened in their habitats because of its possible miniaturization or changing. Important referring to environmental affairs like those mentioned is the in depth knowledge of the involved people who are mostly biologists or related scientists. Thus, for the communication process towards those organizations and their representatives specific sensitiveness is needed. Furthermore, high transparency in sharing the necessary information about plans affecting the nature in order to avoid negative outcomings is advisible.

Grid Operator(s)

In order to transmit the electricity produced by the wind farm and depending on the output of the whole park, a connection to the next middle or high voltage grid has to be established during the project execution. Therefore, an early contact to the local grid operator for ensuring the possibility of a connection has to be arranged and maintained.

Involved Construction Companies and Suppliers

During the establishment phase of the construction team has to build up the wind farm including the necessary facilities such as cable lines and the park´s substation. While this period the project manager needs to monitor the contractors and sub-contracters to ensure that the project is on the right path and proceeds as planned. This is of particular necessity because the contractor has to minimize the costs while maximizing the profit. Therefore, interim payments according to the construction progress are quite common and guarantee an adequate fullfilment of the work in most instances.

Assumed Stakeholder Power/Influence Matrix

Depending on the actual project environment a possible stakeholder matrix could look like the one which follows. For analyzing the respective degrees of power and interest of the different parties a closer look is necessary during each new project. In the end, different projects generate different Power/interest matrices based on varying circumstances.

Figure 3: Stakeholder Power/Interest Matrix for Wind Power Projects [6]

Derived Activities for Wind Farm Projects regarding Individuals

Phase 1: Initiation

During the initiation phase of the project both the affected and the interested people should be informed about the planned undertaking. Suitable actions are the release of information posters or presentations which are held for not only involving the public but also possible investors if they have not been found so far. Immediate neighbours should be visited to explain the detailed plans of the project organization and the following actions of the project circle. Farmers whose grounds could be a possibility for establishing the wind turbines should be also included in these first steps of the project and ensure their compliance with possible leasing agreements.

Phase 2: Planning and Project Development

Campaigns regarding public relations are recommendable during the second project phase. By conducting those more detailed information about the coming project stages can be published. Furthermore, arising threats concerning the wind farm can be spotted and possible solutions such as process or design adjustments can be developed. If the resistance in the public continues permanently, a suitable solution could be the issue of shares in the wind farm for settling down the stressed situation.

Phase 3: Establishment

Throughout the construction process of the wind park, the infrastructure and the necessary substation(s) there are various possiblities for the appearance of issues which can harm the project. Protests, for instance, can actually stop the physical construction progress and make for delays for delays of the whole project. Besides this construction dust and noise emitted by the used construction machines can also stress the relationships to the people living in the surroudings of the building site. Thus, there are not only some explanations necessary to quieten possible demonstrants but also a plan for reducing the emissions of noise and other negative influences on the neighbours. Out-of-hours deliveries of large components like the blades and the towers of the wind turbines should be reduced to a minimum as well.

Phase 4: Operation

After building up the wind turbines there can still be some less excited people whose mindset remained critical. By opening the wind park to the public and enabling interested visitors to get more information about this way of generating and providing electricity the population´s approach to renewable energy projects in general can be improved. Those people should be used as “new experts“ for spreading the experiences about such projects and improve the initial situation for susequent wind parks. [3]

Limitations and Conclusion

Due to the differences between various wind power development projects it is hard to define a general procedure about how to deal with all the affected stakeholders and to provide a overall strategy for interacting with them. Reasons such as different personal attitudes around the project´s location or different environmental concerns lead to a particular situation in each case. However, this article tries to make the reader aware of possible stakeholders or stakeholder groups and their potential interests regarding the planned project. Finally, the main aim of the stakeholder management in wind power as a special kind of a construction project is to ensure the project´s overall success from the planning phase across the establishment to the handover to the client. Thus, identifying, mapping and analyzing as well as handling the affected people is crucial for reaching the project´s goals, most of all finishing on time and on budget.

Annotated Bibliograhy

  • Zöchbauer, F.B. Energiezukunft als gemeinsame Verantwortung wahrnehmen, 2014
This report/handbook which was published by the Austrian energy supplier VERBUND AG shows how companies in the energy sector can involve both their actual customers and the public in general to ensure the positive attitude of those concerning the big change in generating energy. The book itself is based on a study conducted by Ernst & Young about the confidence of affected stakeholders and its influence on a company´s success. Thus, it gives a good general overview about handling stakeholders in the energy business.
  • Manowong, E., Ogunlana, S. Stakeholder impact analysis in construction project management, Construction Management and Economics, (2007), 5:3, 277-287
In this eight chapter of the book "Construction Management and Economics" Manowong and Ogunlana give a good summary about how to deal with different stakeholder issues. After a short introduction to uncertainties in construction projects based on stakeholder unsatisfaction and related problems the whole process of finding, analyzing, mapping and communicating with stakeholders is described. If necessary, additional tactics can be gathered from this chapter as well.
  • Cronin, T. et al., Public acceptance of wind farm development: developer practices and review of scientific literature; DTU - Department of Wind Energy, 2015
Published by DTU as a report about the Wind2050 project, this paper contains latest research results about the interests and attitudes of the population concerning on-shore wind power projects, especially in Denmark. It also deals with possible options in order to influence the affected people and the aim to reduce their objections. For creating a basis a general wind farm development process is described at the beginning.


  1. Zöchbauer, F. B., Energiezukunft als gemeinsame Verantwortung wahrnehmen, (Wien: Verbund AG, 2014).
  2. "Windpark Westerems",
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Cronin, T. et al., Public acceptance of wind farm development: developer practices and review of scientific literature, (DTU Department of Wind Enery, 2015).
  4. Olander, S., Stakeholder impact analysis in construction project management, Construction Management and Economics, (2007), 5:3, 277-287.
  5. Kuster, J. et al., Anspruchsgruppen managen", Handbuch Projektmanagement, (Springer, 2011), 218-226.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Manowong, E., Ogunlana, S., Strategies and Tactics for Managing Construction Stakeholders, Construction Stakeholder Management, (2010), pp. 121-137.
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