Consulting effectively with local communities during socially-distanced times poses a serious challenge for developers of renewable energy projects.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, MHW is helping leading wind and solar developer EDF Renewables to maintain its development programme by successfully changing the conventional approach to stakeholder engagement with the introduction of special virtual exhibitions.
For the company’s latest wind farm proposal at Heathland Forest in Scotland’s central region, MHW has worked on a special 3D online event to give local residents access to in-depth information on the project.
The special website hosting the event has been designed to look exactly like a village hall. Visitors can stroll around the room and click on different materials to read about different aspects of the wind farm. Information panels have been combined with maps, plans and photomontages, and residents can also complete an online feedback form which is automatically submitted to EDF.
PR director Ian Watson explained: “We’ve tried very hard to replicate the traditional face to face public information event with a realistic and meaningful virtual exhibition for local residents.
“This means that not only is there a wide range of detailed information available,but visitors can also provide comments and submit questions directly to the developer. Display materials can be downloaded or printed out for closer scrutiny and consideration.
“In addition, hosting the exhibition online means it is accessible 24/7 over an extended period, so visitors can look round whenever they want and revisit as many times as they like.”
As well as producing the display materials and liaising with local community groups, to support and promote the online exhibition, MHW produced a special leaflet that was mailed to over 6,000 properties in the immediate vicinity of the development site. Advertisements were also taken in local newspapers and on social media to direct people to the 3D event.
The Heathland Wind Farm online exhibition is open from November 30 to December 13 and is available via a special link on the EDF Renewables website at www.edf-re.uk.