While community opposition to wind farms may appear to have received the lion’s share of media in recent times; evidence is increasing wind power is not a bogeyman in the eyes of the community.
A series of surveys and reports have emerged this year showing that generally speaking, communities are behind wind farms and the opposition is mainly a vocal minority.
For example, in January, A CSIRO report stated support for the development of wind farms is stronger than may be assumed from media coverage.
A survey report released in May found the majority of residents living near Capital Wind Farm in Bungendore, the largest wind farm in New South Wales, believed the power station had either a good or very good impact on the local community.
Last week, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) released the results of its own survey, finding again that community support for wind farms is strong.
The CEC’s report, titled “Wind Energy Community Research in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia” states a large majority (77 per cent) of survey respondents said they supported wind farm developments and just 13 per cent said they were opposed.
Among other key findings:
- 75 per cent of respondents said they believed generating electricity through wind farms is a good idea in Australia.
- 60 per cent of respondents said they agree or strongly agreed that by placing restrictions on wind farm growth opportunities are being missed to support Australia’s own wind farm manufacturing industry.
- 77 per cent of respondents said local communities and land owners should be able to make up their own minds about wind farms with less interference from state politicians.
- 80 per cent of those surveyed thought it likely/very likely a wind farm could provide important income for farmers and other land owners.
- 58 per cent believed economic benefits of wind farms to local communities far outweigh any negative impacts.
- Three quarters of survey respondents believed wind farm construction would create some jobs in the local area.
One of the major issues wind farm opponents often seize upon is the so-called “Wind Turbine Syndrome” - a malady that has so far been repeatedly debunked by various health bodies. Wind farms have been in operation around the world for quite some time, yet Australia seems to be a hotspot for concerns over this issue.
However, the existence of Wind Turbine Syndrome is also questioned by a large section of the community it seems. 83 per cent of respondents said they felt concerns about the health impacts of wind turbines “will turn out to be nothing to worry about”.
While most people may not believe issues such as Wind Turbine Syndrome exist, there is certainly enough concern in the community remaining to warrant further research and education on the topic.
The survey regarding the perceptions, values and behaviours of people within local communities who are directly and indirectly affected by wind farms was carried out in two phases, with each phase consisting of 600 respondents. 75 per cent of respondents were from regional communities around wind farms.