Public Attitudes to Windfarms: A Survey of Local Residents in Scotland
Background and objectives
MORI Scotland was commissioned by the Scottish Executive to undertake a study examining the attitudes of people living close to windfarms in Scotland. It was decided that the research should focus on the larger sites, i.e., those windfarms with nine or more turbines of which there were ten operational in Scotland at the end of 2002.
The sample was structured in a way that not only allowed separate analysis by windfarm, but also by three zones surrounding the windfarms - up to 5 kilometres, 5-10 kilometres, and 10-20 kilometres. The ten windfarms, ranging in size (number of turbines) were as follows:
Number of turbines
Beinn an Tuirc
A total of 1,810 interviews were conducted by telephone between 27 th February and 18 th March 2003.
People living close to windfarms (within 20 km) like the areas they live in, mentioning the peacefulness (28%), scenery (26%), rural isolation (23%) and friendly people (20%) as particular strengths. When asked to say what the shortcomings are, most commonly mentioned are a lack of amenities (20%), poor public transport (18%), and lack of jobs (8%). Just five people (0.3%) spontaneously mention windfarms as a negative aspect of their area.
Three times the number of residents say that their local windfarm has had a broadly positive impact on the area (20%) than say that it has had a negative impact (7%). Most (73%) feel that it has had neither a positive nor negative impact, or expressed no opinion.
People who lived in their homes before the site was developed say that, in advance of the windfarm development, they thought that problems might be caused by its impact on the landscape (27%), traffic during construction (19%) and noise during construction (15%). However, only 12% say the landscape has been spoiled, 6% say there were problems with additional traffic, and 4% say there was noise or disturbance from traffic during construction.
There is substantial support for the idea of enlarging existing local windfarm sites, particularly if the increase in the number of turbines involves the addition of not more than 50% of the existing number. A majority (54%) would support an expansion of their local site by half the number of turbines again, while one in ten is opposed (9%). Support drops somewhat if the proposal is to double the number of turbines. In this case, four in ten would be in favour (42%) and one in five (21%) would be opposed.
People living closest to the windfarms tend to be most positive about them (44% of those living within 5km say the windfarm has had a positive impact, compared with 16% of those living 10-20km away). They are also most supportive of expansion of the sites (65% of those in the 5km zone support 50% expansion, compared with 53% of those in the 10-20km zone).
Similarly, those who most frequently see the windfarms in their day-to-day lives tend to be most favourable towards them (33% of those who see the turbines all the time or frequently say the windfarms have had a positive impact on the area, while 18% of those who only see them occasionally say the same).
While many say that they feel that nuclear, coal and oil generation should be reduced, clear majorities favour increasing the proportion of electricity generated through wave (69%) and wind energy (82%). Although around a third say they do not know what the Scottish Executive's policy is regarding these methods of electricity generation, the most common views are that the use of wind energy is to be increased (66% believe this is the Scottish Executive's policy), as is wave energy (52%). Many believe that coal (46%), nuclear (44%) and oil-fired generation (35%) are to be reduced.
Although few can remember being consulted over the development at the planning stage (13%), and the most common source of information about the proposed site at that time was the local newspaper (40%) rather than the local council planning office (4%) or the developer (1%), few are dissatisfied with the consultation by the developer (11%), with most expressing neutral views.
Views are broadly similar with respect to the consultation from the local authority, although even fewer can remember being involved in this. People living within 10 km of the windfarm sites are more likely to recall having been consulted by the developer (37%), and are more likely to express a positive view of the process (40%).
If there is to be greater dialogue during a planning proposal, people would like to see it publicised through their local paper (43%), leaflets through the door (33%) or through public meetings (29%).