People prefer living near wind turbines over other energy sources

Here’s an indisputable fact: We need electricity to power our modern world. That means building facilities to generate that electricity, some of which will inevitably be located near homes. Now, a new study finds that 90 percent of respondents would prefer to live near a wind farm over any type of centralized power plant, whether coal, natural gas or nuclear. People would also prefer to live near a wind farm over commercial-scale solar projects by a large margin.

That’s the main finding in a report from Dr. Jeremy Firestone, a professor in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment’s School of Marine Science, and Hannah Kirk, one of his students. Dr. Firestone and Kirk analyzed a publicly available Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL) dataset to reach their conclusion. LBNL’s groundbreaking 2018 survey of wind farm neighbor attitudes found 92 percent of people living within five miles of a turbine reported positive or neutral experiences.

Dr. Firestone’s research takes LBNL’s work a step further and shows that not only do people living near wind farms generally have positive experiences, they also wouldn’t trade their wind farm neighbors for any other type of power plant.

“[T]he ultimate question is whether a community member supports or opposes a local project – that is, wind power or nothing. But that’s not the societal choice, which is, instead, among wind power, solar, coal or natural gas,” Dr. Firestone said. “Even when residents might have less-than-positive attitudes toward a local project, the majority appear to conclude that their local wind power project is better than the alternatives.”

Neighbors might prefer wind projects over other energy sources for a variety of reasons. Wind projects create local jobs, pay substantial local taxes and lease payments, and leave 98 percent of land undisturbed, meaning it’s free for other uses like farming and ranching. They’re highly compatible with the rural communities in which they’re built and bring in far-reaching benefits for the entire area.