A Large Majority of Wind Power Project Neighbors Have Positive Attitudes Toward Their Local Turbines, Berkeley Lab Study Finds

January 24, 2018

Over 1.3 million homes in America are within 5 miles of a large wind turbine, yet there had not been a comprehensive effort to understand the attitudes of those who live in proximity to these turbines, or the effects of the turbines on those who live nearby. 

Preliminary analysis from a three-year Berkeley Lab-led effort finds that a large majority of individuals within 5 miles, and even within ½ mile, have positive attitudes toward the turbines in their community.  

The study investigates other important subjects as well, such as: 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. The study, for example,  finds that only 16% of all residents within 5 miles have ever heard sounds from the turbines and, of those, more than half are not at all annoyed by them. Further, it finds that roughly two-thirds of those who were aware of their local planning process for the wind project perceive it as having been largely "fair".

Importantly, the study uncovers significant minorities who are annoyed by the turbine sounds, do not perceive the planning process to have been fair, and have negative attitudes toward the turbines. 

These wide differences in respondent outcomes are investigated by controlling for changes in other respondent data, which include, but are not limited to: distance to the nearest turbine, presence of turbines on their property, compensation, number of turbines visible from property and inside home, length of residence in home, attachment to place of residence, noise sensitivity, experiences of acute and chronic stress, and demographic information.

The study, "A National Survey of Attitudes of Wind Power Project Neighbors", was led by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) in collaboration with researchers from the University of Delaware, Martin-Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg and the Medical School of Hamburg (in Germany), RSG Incorporated (a consultancy in Vermont), Portland State University, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Survey data were collected from 1,705 randomly selected individuals within 5 miles of modern (>1.5 MW and taller than 354 feet) wind turbines in 2016, spanning 24 states and surrounding 250 wind power projects.  The survey consisted of over 50 questions and was conducted via phone, mail and the internet. It represents the largest national survey of wind project neighbors conducted anywhere in the world to date.

A high-level summary of the key results from the survey are available here: A National Survey of Attitudes of Wind Power Project Neighbors.  Additionally, there are links to each of four distinct research areas informed by the survey, where downloadable papers and PowerPoints will be housed as they become available.

Webinar Series

Recordings of a four-part webinar series, covering the four research areas:

January 30th, 2018, Overall Analysis of Attitudes of 1,700 Wind Power Project Neighbors 
Webinar recording link

February 13th, 2018, Wind Power Project Planning Process Fairness and Attitudes  
Webinar recording link

February 27th, 2018, Predicting Audibility of and Annoyance to Wind Power Project Sounds Using Modeled Sound 
Webinar recording link

March 13, 2018, Comparing Strongly Annoyed Individuals with Symptoms near U.S. Turbines to Those in Surveyed European Communities 
Webinar recording link

One can find details on the extensive literature review that was conducted as part of this effort, which was released in 2017, here.

We appreciate the support from the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office, which made this work possible. Learn more at DOE Wind Energy Technologies Office.