Impressive growth rates of solar photovoltaics (PV) in higher latitudes are raising concerns about seasonal mismatches between demand and supply. Locating utility-scale PV projects in alpine regions with high solar irradiation could help to meet demand during the winter season. However, similar to wind farms, large solar projects change the landscape and may therefore face social acceptance issues. In contrast to the rich literature on wind energy, social acceptance of solar power has received less attention. This paper helps close this gap with the help of a large-scale survey (N = 1036) that examines the acceptance of alpine solar projects in Switzerland through choice experiments. In addition to attributes that are well established in the social acceptance literature, such as local ownership, along with both distributional and procedural justice, we also investigate the influence of innovative design elements on acceptance. Our findings suggest that local ownership, as well as colored solar panels that reduce the perceived landscape change may increase social acceptance, implying that projects should be kept local and low-key. We also find that acceptance of alpine solar projects is higher among the affected population than among inhabitants of non-alpine regions.
Pascal Vuichard, Alexander Stauch, Rolf Wüstenhagen