In this paper I present findings and insights from an empirical study of two case study solar farm developments from rural areas of the South West, UK. Drawing on a Habermasian theoretical frame, I examine local resident narratives that emerged through the local public sphere and how these formed discursive meanings that provided shared background social norms for residents towards the solar farm developments. The paper begins by operationalising Habermas's theoretical ideas for empirical research and situating the research within existing literature. The theoretical and methodological sections are followed by the examination of three local narratives that emerged: idealised rural land use, farming and income generation, and money making and the pursuit of profit. Such narratives are considered in view of public opportunities for robust dialogue and debate to judge the normative democratic character of the solar farm developments. The paper concludes that the community development offered significantly more discursive space for debate than the commercial development and increased the developments' overall democratic legitimacy. It is maintained that such a Habermasian theoretical frame adapted for empirical analysis is valuable for normatively assessing democratic processes which are needed in view of conceptually weak accounts of ‘energy democracy’.
- SPS Children and Families Research Centre
- Deliberative democracy
- Local narratives
- Rural energy transition
- Solar farms