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Example of Using the Constellation Analysis: Biography of wind power innovation

The development of wind power usage in Germany is considered as a story of sucess. The investigation of the factors that control this process within the project "The biography of wind power innovation" is an application example of Constellation Analysis. The project aim was to pinpoint the effects of specific control activities in interrelation with other driving and activating forces. The investigation was carried out by an interdisciplinary team of sociologists, planners, political scientists and engineers. The Constellation Analysis team proceeded on the assumption that control impulses in the wind power field of activity are closely linked both with technical and natural as well as with social and economic developments.

Defining phases and mapping these as constellations

After drafting a phase heuristic for the innovation process, the researchers mapped and interpreted the constellations for the phases identified within an investigation period of 30 years.For comparability of the phase constellations, it was helpful to define the elements that formed the respective core of each constellation (in the figures these are indicated by the circle). This allowed identifying the changes that occurred from one phase to the next.

Description of the constellation structures

The mapping procedure showed that the different phase constellations had totally different internal structures. At the beginning of the development, the constellation was split into two sub-constellations that were subject to different principles: the niche constellation pursued the concept of environmentally friendly and decentralised energy supply, while the dominant constellation relied on an economic concept of energy supply. Mapping the subsequent phases revealed shifts and changes in the elements and their interrelations from one phase to the next, and showed that individual elements became marginal or disappeared altogether, or that new elements appeared. In the second phase, the actors and the technology in the niche obtained financial aid from government support programmes. The boost in activities of the German federal states and the Federal Ministry of Research had been triggered mainly by external impulses. The support programmes now tied in with existing structures in the niche constellation. The third phase revealed great changes due to the diversification of the actors in the niche constellation. On the part of the government, the boom in the niche constellation was now also being promoted by energy regulations. They were embedded in a consistent objective and supported by a broad alliance of former and new actors in the constellation. In the fourth phase, the niche constellation had become emancipated. It was now being confronted with new elements and alliances that exerted direct and legally communicated economic pressure. In the fifth phase, governmental and EU actors entered the constellation with a new wave of regulations, providing greater clarity in the constellation. The constellation core contains the sign elements that stabilise the constellation. On the emancipated niche side, the actors had reorganised and rearranged themselves in a broad alliance.


Interpretation of the constellations

In the last step, the team interpreted the role of control in the constellations development and change processes. Mapping, describing and interpreting the process of wind power development suggested that the process was not dominated by a single, centrally controlling actors, but was brought about by the interactions of several actors within the context of various conditions. The instruments employed by government institutions to control specific processes had an impact, but only in combination with other elements.

Conducting the Constellation Analysis also showed that the effectiveness of government interventions is largely dependent on the comprehensive consistency of the action strategy with the rest of the constellation. A constellation that is split into resisting and irreconcilable sub-constellations with diverging functional principles is a less favourable environment for control efforts than autonomous or converging sub-constellations. In addition, context events such as motivating developments in pioneering countries or rising pressure due to threat scenarios may significantly influence the constellations. Mapping helps recognise which form of control may be suitable for the constellation at hand. Constellation Analysis also revealed a correlation between government (technology) control and technical developments. Successes and dynamics in technology development influence the control system in the same way as do failures or consequences that were not intended. Technology drives, while being driven at the same time.

Benefit of Constellation Analysis in this field of application

Conducting Constellation Analysis allowed tracing changes in the constellation over time. Each phase and each new constellation showed a substantially changed situation as compared to the previous phase. Hence, the object, requirements and objectives of controlling interventions changed, too. Constellation Analysis permitted taking a detailed look at the arrangement of the elements, and revealed how control impulses change the context of the elements interactions. It allowed displaying temporal developments in the plurality of influential factors and substantiating these with accurate descriptions and interpretations based on the mapped constellations. It also permitted comparing different processes within this field of application.

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