Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts




Baxter, Jamie


To understand better why wind turbines continue to be polarizing at the local level, experiences of residents in two rural communities in Ontario, Canada were gathered through 31 in-depth semi-structured interviews and analysed with the help of NVivo. The qualitative, inductive study, utilizing a modified grounded theory approach, captured views on community ownership at the community level. Both cases were initiated to be community-owned, allowing for an exploration of why attempts at community ownership failed to materialize at both sites. Close examination of the places – landscapes and people – that constituted community, expanded understandings of how place identities, place attachments and social dynamics intersected and how these intersections impacted feelings on wind energy developments and community ownership. Furthermore, the inductive analysis, which included the leaseholders’ own perceptions of their behaviours and motivations, revealed the pivotal social dynamics of leaseholders of wind turbines. Leaseholders were often at the forefront of community-level discussions since they were envied by other local stakeholders for their higher-level procedural and distributive involvement in the wind energy projects, a dynamic which was sometimes injurious to relationships. Although discussions called for wider, more equitable distribution of benefits, local residents’ pluralities in needs, capacities, and desires for futures leaves doubts about whether community ownership can indeed be an empowering and unifying force at the local level. At the core of the thesis document are two manuscripts that provide a comprehensive discussion of findings from this study.

Summary for Lay Audience

Accelerating climate change has necessitated a shift away from fossil fuels to curb greenhouse emissions, creating profound interest in renewable sources of energy. In Canada, particularly in Ontario, in the last 10 to 15 years, greater investment in wind energy, incentivized by the provincial government through supportive policies, led to the deployment of wind energy projects. However, several of these projects faced opposition from local residents. Through interviews with residents in two separate Ontario communities where wind turbines were recently installed, the goal of this case study was to explore whether community rather than developer ownership of projects would have made them less objectionable to the residents. Asking residents about how they would feel if they had had a direct financial stake in the projects, through ownership of shares, revealed complex social dynamics within communities, and shed light on the diverse relationships community members had to the landscapes they lived in. Since in both communities the projects were owned by wind energy developers (corporations) and were situated on lands leased from local residents, mostly farmers, the perceptions of these leaseholders by fellow community members came to the forefront, along with insights from some leaseholders themselves, who were also interviewed. Some tensions were observed, as well as a desire for more equitable distribution of financial benefits of turbines, since the local leaseholders were viewed to be the sole beneficiaries. Despite an evident desire to benefit, it became clear that pluralities within individuals, their multiple visions of their futures, their disparate needs, capacities, and desires influenced not only their feelings about wind turbines, but also whether they wanted to be part of community-owned wind energy projects.

Available for download on Sunday, September 01, 2024