UFZ EnergyDays 2017 - Session B2

"Can you feel the energy?" -
The 'Sensory Governance' of energy technologies and systems

Workshop documentation

Session Coordinators:

Alena Bleicher, Dept. of Urban and Environmental Sociology Matthias Groß, Dept. of Urban and Environmental Sociology Nona Schulte-Römer, Dept. of Urban and Environmental Sociology


This session assembles empirical evidence on perception-related controversies that occur in the course of energy transition projects. Based on this evidence we will discuss what we call ‘sensory governance’: policies, evidence production and regulatory efforts designed to resolve controversies over im/perceptible and anticipated ‘sensible issues’.

The presentations will introduce how sensory experiences and sensor-based evidence become controversial in energy transition projects and cause public protest or expert debate. Examples include wind energy projects that are accompanied by complaints about the disfigurement of scenic landscapes, light pollution or infrasound. Other examples of annoyance are smells caused by bioenergy plants. In response, innovators aim to reduce such stress factors by defining minimum distances or seeking technological solutions. On the other hand, the imperceptibility of energy systems can also become a critical issue, e.g. when experts or citizens rely on sensors to render visible the otherwise imperceptible impacts of geothermal energy systems, notably groundwater temperature or seismic activity.

The aim of the interdisciplinary session is to develop a better understanding of the commonalities and differences of the observed controversies and mediation processes and to explore the challenges of ‘sensory governance’ in the context of energy transition.

09:00 - 11:00 Stress effects of wind turbine noise: The role of psychological factors
Johannes Pohl
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
  When energy smells funny. The sensual aspect of Bioenergy
Stefan Majer
Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum
  A matter of degrees - Prediction, monitoring, and evaluation of subsurface temperatures for the sustainable use of shallow geothermal energy
Thomas Vienken
Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
  Participatory monitoring for energetic and environmental phenomena
Jochen Wendel

European Institute for Energy Research
11:00 - 12:00 Discussion