Shell Wind Energy is involved in 11 wind-generating facilities across the United States and Europe, with 550 megawatts of owned generating capacity—saving around 1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year compared to conventional energy sources. Shell recognizes that wind projects can have a range of impacts that require community engagement, and that community engagement is central to positive outcomes. For example, while wind developments in rural areas can support the regional economy, important public services also need to be readied for managing revenues, safety, and communications regarding planned construction and operating activities. Shell asked BSR to support community engagement with wind projects in several locations, including New Mexico and Texas.
BSR worked with the Shell Wind Energy team to identify a range of stakeholders associated with each of these projects, including community leaders, NGOs, government officials, and local residents. BSR then designed a series of discussion questions and deployed a team to conduct interviews (with anonymity) and obtain feedback on specific concerns, observations, and recommendations regarding the project, the local community, and Shell's track record. Each project typically involved more than 40 interviews and covered topics related to economic development, environmental impact, and community dynamics. While the interviews revealed excitement about harnessing renewable energy, investing in local infrastructure, and reinvigorating business developments, interviewees expressed concerns about how the turbines would impact the natural landscape and affect longer-term community development.
Based on this feedback, BSR crafted a range of recommendations that focused on:
- Expanding direct communications with local residents through newsletters, town halls, and other gatherings.
- Supporting strategic community projects that would match Shell competencies with local infrastructure needs.
- Helping community leaders identify gaps in needed public services and civic planning activities.
While the wind projects themselves are still in various stages of development, Shell has incorporated many of BSR's recommendations in its community relations strategy—in order to maximize benefits both for the projects and the impacted communities. With BSR's assistance, Shell is developing a stakeholder engagement plan to identify the various community stakeholder concerns throughout its development process. One of the most important anticipated outcomes is the development of awareness and capacity at the community level to support effective planning and management of local emergency, housing, water supply, and education services.