The basic requirement for this phase is to have the permit to drill. Here, just like in the phases before, it is important to inform existing stakeholders and the public about the phase and its potential side-effects, guided by the legal framework. In addition, the work should be documented regularly.
The works that are carried out during this phase shift the focus of the communication work on topics such as noise, steam or odour annoyance as well as increased traffic caused by trucks because building materials need to be transported.
These inconveniences can only be minimized to a limited extent. For example, truck deliveries could be set at certain times so that residents are not bothered all day, or protective walls could be erected around the drilling site so that visual impairment is reduced to a minimum and noise and steam nuisance reduce as well. On the part of communication, an early and comprehensive provision of information about the measures that are to be expected can be recommended, especially to those directly affected by the works. Addressing possible problems can be beneficial in order to find a compromise or even a solution for the respective difficulty. For example, during the drilling phase, a news ticker could be installed on the project website. Citizens could inform themselves about noise peaks, for example, or see how long the drilling phase is planned to last. This information can possibly contribute to making the construction noise more bearable because information is provided and “an end is always in sight”.
Beyond the mentioned measures, seismic campaigns and other issues of concern should become more important for public relations during this phase. Any remaining fears should be appeased or invalidated as much as possible. Confidence in the safety of the facility can also be achieved through local seismic monitoring networks that are installed to report any unwanted activities. The support of scientific personnel in monitoring and assessment is also an important component for generating trust. In addition, discussion groups can be offered to exchange ideas, concerns and opinions, or topical tables can be offered that for instance deal with risks, financing or the effects of the geothermal system on the environment.
It is also recommended to continue using the information material and information options from the previous phases, including the direct contact person for questions or comments. Things like short films, handing out flyers with images and explanations, and information events with lectures have also proven their worth. One possibility to make the information events more personal is to offer regional information markets with many subordinated small information events without large stages or lecterns and a smaller number of recipients. This could reduce the risk of hardened fronts, the recipients would have more of a chance to ask questions and make comments, and those present are closer to each other personally which makes it easier to start a conversation, which has the potential to make the events more productive overall. However, it is important to note that the personnel costs are significantly higher than for traditional information events.
When dealing openly with the project and entering into discussion with citizens, it can be expected that they have found negative examples of geothermal projects in their own research and put them up for discussion. It therefore makes sense to be prepared for this confrontation and to present negative examples by oneself that did not go as planned, but also positive examples that balance the negative ones. If it offers itself, the causes of the problems can be addressed in the case of the negative examples and the precautions taken for this particular project to avoid the same problems can be presented.
There are also other ways to involve the public in this phase. In consultation with representatives of the commune, events such as open door days or guided tours over the drilling sites can be planned that bring the technology closer and make it more tangible and imaginable because it can be seen with the own eyes. If a live tour is not possible for various reasons, there is still the option of filming a tour and presenting it, as well as offering virtual reality or 3D presentations of the drilling sites.
If there is a breakdown or damage during the phase, it should be dealt with transparently and openly. Information about the occurrence should be given as quickly as possible, questions and conflicts should be dealt with prudently and comprehensively. This stresses the importance of risk communication strategies that should be prepared in advance to be able to react quickly and organized in case of an emergency. Of course, trust in the system can decrease as a result of an incident, but being honest leads to much better chances that the incident will not have a permanent negative impact than if there is an attempt to cover it up. In the last case, the breach of trust would be aggregated to the reduction of trust in the technology.
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