Grounded theory as an analytical tool to explore housing decisions related to living in the vicinity of industrial wind turbines

From the conclusion of this study: The purpose of this article is to compare the qualitative and quantitative methodologies and to describe the benefits of having used a qualitative methodology, specifically Grounded Theory in order to study why some people contemplate vacating/abandoning their homes when living within 10 km of industrial wind turbines. ...As described in this article, the siting of industrial wind energy facilities in rurally populated areas can challenge a quantitative methodology due to such factors as low population density, obtaining a sufficient sample, and challenges to achieving statistical power and statistical significance. Grounded Theory methodology served as a practical toolThis important analysis validates the claim that people living in proximity to industrial scale wind turbines who have made house decisions to leave their homes did so based on the impacts of the turbines. 


Background: Some people living near wind turbines have reported adverse health effects and taken the step to vacate/abandon their homes, while others contemplate doing so or have decided to remain in their homes. Research on the extent and outcomes of these events is lacking. To date, our preliminary findings and an overview of results have been published in the scientific literature. Methods: This study utilized a qualitative methodology, specifically Grounded Theory, to interview 67 residents of Ontario living within 10 km of an industrial wind turbine project.

Objectives: Quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research each has strengths and weaknesses in addressing particular research questions. The purpose of this article is to compare the qualitative and quantitative methodologies and to describe the benefits of having used a qualitative methodology, specifically Grounded Theory, to explore the events that influenced families living within 10 km of wind energy facilities to contemplate vacating their homes and to formulate a substantive theory regarding these housing decisions.

Results: It was found that research into the impacts of siting industrial wind turbines in a rural residential population can be challenging for a quantitative methodological approach due to factors such as low population density, obtaining a sufficient sample, and achieving statistical power and statistical significance. We conclude that the Grounded Theory methodology was applicable to this study as it assisted with the development of a coherent theory which explained participants’ housing decisions.

Discussion: This paper assesses the appropriateness of a qualitative methodology for conducting the vacated/abandoned home study. Through the utilization of the qualitative Grounded Theory methodology, government authorities, researchers, medical and health practitioners, social scientists and policy makers with an interest in health policy and disease prevention have the opportunity to gain an awareness of the potential risk of placing wind energy projects near family homes.

1. Background

The purpose of the vacated/abandoned home study is to explore why some families living within 10 km of a wind energy facility contemplate vacating their homes. This ethics approved study employed a qualitative method, specifically the Grounded Theory (GT) proposed by Castillo-Montoya, 2016 [1]. Study participants were given an opportunity to describe the events that led to their housing decisions through in-depth, semi-structured interviews.

To date, two previously published articles are available that provide details about the purpose of this study, its methodology, research questions, results and examples of the research participants’ descriptions related to their housing decisions. The findings of these published articles are based on the data analysis that was conducted [2] [3].

The purpose of this third article is to explore the differences between the quantitative and qualitative methodologies and the basis for selecting the Grounded Theory qualitative approach for the vacated/abandoned home study. In exploring the siting of wind energy facilities in rural communities, we identify some of the research challenges associated with the vacated/abandoned homes topic such as the variety of zoning bylaws, rural population density and sampling challenges, and the ability to achieve statistical power and statistical significance.

Between October 2017 and January 2018, 67 consenting participants were interviewed. Due to the extent of our findings, additional manuscripts will be submitted to scientific journals for peer-review.

While the risks of harm to humans associated with exposure to wind energy facilities have been controversial and debated globally, [4] - [10] in Ontario and internationally, there are reports of families who have taken the step to vacate/abandon their homes associated with living near industrial wind turbines (IWTs). These reports are available through sources such as judicial proceedings (testimony, factums, written submissions and legal arguments), government hearings, the scientific literature, social media, and Internet websites [5] [9] - [20]. Despite such reports, research on the rationale, extent and outcomes related to vacating/abandoning a home are limited.

Typically, housing decisions are based on a change in circumstances such as: seeking a less expensive or better home, retirement, a job opportunity, a change in marital status, down-sizing, and access to health care [3]. However, this study found that a systematic methodology―the Grounded Theory approach―served as a practical tool to lend support to the theory that:

housing decisions were motivated by the proximity of wind energy facilities within 10 km of homes and the participants’ observations of the occurrence or potential risk of adverse health effects [3].

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MAR 26 2021
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