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Combining wind power and farmed fish: Coastal community perceptions of multi-use offshore renewable energy installations in Europe

Energy research and social science


There is increasing competition for space in coastal seas as new industrial sectors, such as Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) and Aquaculture, seek to expand. Multi-Use - involving sharing of space and, in some cases, facilities - can lessen competition and reduce industry costs if societal and economic challenges can be overcome. An example societal challenge is that of gaining Social Licence to Operate (SLO) for ’Multifunctional Offshore Installations’ (MOI) combining fish farming with MRE (from wind and waves) in a large floating structure. This article reports a mixed-methods study at two potential MOI deployment sites in 2019, aiming to understand the local context for SLO. A survey was carried out in Reggio Calabria, Italy, with 108 respondents, and in Islay, Scotland, with 127 respondents. Questions concerned opinions about MRE and fish-farming, separately and combined. A facilitated workshop in Reggio Calabria provided additional qualitative data. Most findings were the same in both places. Respondents thought better of MRE than fish-farming but remained moderately likely to eat fish produced in MOI. The majority distrusted regulators to control environmental impacts of the technology. The main differences were that respondents in Reggio Calabria anticipated local benefits from MOI industrial activity, and were more likely to accept development by non-local owners than were people on Islay. We interpreted the findings in a conceptual framework that combines theory for SLO with theory for Action Situations, hypothesising that a community’s diffuse and perhaps heterogenous opinions might ‘crystalise’ around an issue during an Action Situation. The hypothesis will be tested when a prototype MOI is deployed near Reggio Calabria in 2021.

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer:

  • What are the factors conditioning the development of MOI?
  • How do stakeholders perceive combined OWE and fish farming in MOI?

Implementation Context:

This paper was drafted in the framework of the Blue Growth Farm project which aims at producing advanced industrial knowledge with fully integrated and efficient offshore multipurpose floating platforms.

Aspects / Objectives:

This paper aims at analysing social dynamics which determine the acceptance of new technologies, focusing on the implementation of Multifunctional Offshore Installations (MOI) and identifying enablers, and blockers linked to social acceptance of such innovation.  


To understand social challenges related to the acceptance of Multifunctional Offshore Installations (MOI)  the authors based their analysis on 2 concepts: Social Licence to Operate (SLO) and Action Situations. For the purpose of the research the project focused on the case study of Reggio Calabria in Italy and the Scottish island of Islay to develop a site comparison. A survey and a workshop were also developed.  

Main Outputs / Results:

This article contributes to expend literature base on stakeholder perspectives on MOI and multi-use of marine space. It also provides insights on development capacities regarding technological, economic and social features and highlights factors involved in stakeholders' perception of such technologies.  


This article focuses on two case study in Italy and Scotland. Nevertheless, the methodology implemented in the framework of this work could inspire similar approach in other sites.

Responsible Entity:

Scottish Association for Marine Science, Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, United Kingdom

Costs / Funding Source:

This study has been produced in the framework of the Blue Growth Farm project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement number 774426

Contact person:

S.-L. Billing: (suzi[dot]billing[at]sams[dot]ac[dot]uk); P. Tett: (paul[dot]tett[at]sams[dot]ac[dot]uk)