Though common stereotypes might suggest otherwise, a preliminary analysis from a new three-year study led by Berkeley Lab has found that those living within 5 miles, or even half a mile, of a large wind turbine have generally positive attitudes towards wind power.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests living near a wind turbine is unpopular, but that’s just what it is, anecdotal evidence, which is almost always from those looking for a reason to complain. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has recently published a preliminary analysis from a three-year study using survey data from 1,705 randomly selected individuals within 5 miles of modern wind turbines. The findings highlight a generally positive attitude, regardless of how close you live to a wind turbine, be it within 5 miles, or within half a mile.
With over 1.3 million American homes within 5 miles of a large wind turbine, this information is now more valuable than ever. As can be seen below, those with a negative attitude towards local wind projects is remarkably low.
Participants in the study, located across 24 states and surrounding 250 separate wind power projects, were asked over 50 questions in a study which represents the largest national survey of wind project neighbors conducted anywhere in the world. The study looked at a variety of topics on top of attitudes, including “perceptions of and possible stress reactions to wind turbine sounds, shadow flicker, lighting and landscape changes; and, participation in and perceived fairness of the wind power project’s planning and siting process.”
Another interesting finding from the study is that only 16% of those responding had ever heard sounds from the turbines and only half of those who had found them annoying. Unsurprisingly, those who lived closer were more likely to hear noise from the wind turbines, and those further away were more likely to hear nothing at all.
While those who consider the projects annoying, were annoyed by turbine sounds, or considered the planning process to be unfair are well in the minority, a separate graphic provided in Berkeley Lab’s Summary of Results (PDF) shows that there is something to the idea that living closer might impact these opinions — but it comes with a strong caveat as well.
As you can see, while negativity increases the closer you get to the project, so too does positivity.
The study also asked about the planning process, which should also provide important insight into future project development and a means to mitigate negativity towards local wind projects. As can be seen, when asked “To what extent do you believe the planning process was fair?” there was a lot more room for improvement on the part of developers.
That being said, not all those surveyed noticed or took part in the planning process, and not all of those who were aware of the planning process did anything to contribute their voice to the project. This reveals several things, including a reason for developers to better engage with the localities surrounding potential wind project sites, but also a mitigating factor in future negativity.