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How willing are you to believe everything you hear?

The phrase “Fake News” has become very popular recently thanks to its involvement in certain political campaigns. But it is a real issue for companies whose industry is being hurt by the false rumours being spread about it. This is especially an issue when it comes to renewable electricity generators, like wind farms.

From going out and speaking to a wide range of people involved in the creation of these wind farms, from domain experts, to developers, to ordinary people who live nearby existing and future sites, the same suspicions and fake news appears time and time again.

While a number of people have welcomed the idea, particularly after hearing about RESS, or the proposed Renewable Energy Support Scheme which would provide support to renewable energy projects in Ireland, a lot of the response has been negative. People with genuine concerns about the level of noise created by the wind turbines, the possibility that their property would be devalued by the aesthetic, and one man even claiming that wind turbines exploding is ‘only a matter of time’. This isn’t surprising; these falsities have been quoted time and time again by anti-wind groups, such as ‘Wind Aware’. However, when people are asked if they’ve experienced the negative side of wind turbines first-hand, the answer is always a deafening ‘No’.

The consistency of these responses really made me think: how willing am I to accept something that is just hearsay? Do I stop and think of the motivation behind the source? Do you? Having researched wind farms for a number of weeks I’m aware that wind turbines have no long-term effect on property prices, and that at 500 metres away noise from wind turbines is less than background noise, unnoticeable inside a house, but not everyone has done the same research I have. The problem our team is facing, I realised isn’t just as simple as telling people about the benefits a wind farm could provide for their community or explaining why using green energy is vital to our environment. Our problem is in fact centred around challenging falsehoods in a time of fake news, to insight a need for fact-based information and inspire an appetite for a scientific solution to our environmental crisis- and the task feels daunting.

As we continue our work and our research, it is imperative that we get to know our customers: their motivation and their fears. So, I ask you, the reader, what makes you question something you’ve heard? What makes you stop to check something you’ve read? And what makes you believe something immediately?

This blog is written by Eimear Murphy from the Viridious team and edited by Ellen Le Bas. Viridious is part of the 2018 UCD Sustainability Launchpad led by UpThink in association with the UCD Energy Institute and sponsored by our Industry Partners IWEA. If you have any questions about the Launchpad programme email mary.cronin@upthink.works.

Mary Cronin