Last week the Mail On Sunday newspaper commissioned a new opinion poll to find out public attitudes to wind turbine developments.
The poll was carried out by the polling company Survation. The results revealed that the public continue to view wind turbines in a favourable light. In fact it could possibly be said that public support for wind turbine developments is only increasing in the UK.
All of the people surveyed as part of this poll were asked the following question: “Which of the following statements is closest to your opinion: (a) I would be happy to have a wind farm built in my local area (b) I would not be happy to have a wind farm built in my local area”? The results revealed that a clear majority support not just the concept of wind energy developments being undertaken somewhere within the country but within the local area of those polled. 70.1% of people asked selected answer (a) demonstrating that nimbyism is very much a minority opinion; supported by only 31.9% of people.
Furthermore the poll revealed that public support for wind turbine developments exists as the majority opinion across the political spectrum. The people surveyed were asked to state their voting intentions in the upcoming 2015 General Election. 60.8% of those who gave their preference as the Conservative Party stated that they would be happy to have a wind farm built in their local area. 74.6% of people intending to vote for the Labour Party were of the same opinion: as were 81.1% of future Liberal Democrat voters and even 57.8% of future UK Indepence Party (UKIP) voters. The polling information therefore suggests that wind power is not the divisive issue that some elements of the press and some politicians would wish it to be.
The second question in the poll asked those surveyed to choose a preferable form of energy generation development to take place in their local area. Specifically they were asked to choose between a wind farm development or a shale gas fracking plant. Again a clear majority revealed that renewable wind energy was their choice. 68.1% of those polled stated their support for wind power over shale gas fracking. Only 31.9% of those asked gave their support for the controversial new form of fossil fuel extraction. Again this runs contrary to some elements of the press but is a strong indication of not only strong support amongst the general public for renewable energy but also a rejection of the fossil fuel status quo. As with the first question this opinion was reflected by the majority across the political spectrum.
Industry trade body RenewableUK‘s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber greeted the poll results positively:
“We’re pleased that a massive 7 in 10 people would welcome a wind farm near them. It goes to show that the loud opposition we sometimes hear just isn’t representative of general people’s views. This vote of support is consistent across age groups, voting intention and region of the country. In other words for politicians no matter which party you represent, or where in the country you are, if you oppose wind you’re out of touch with your voters.
“There’s a lot of confusion about what green levies represent and that makes it difficult for people to know whether they support them or not. What’s clear is when directly asking whether they favour Government spending money into the future encouraging wind, a majority of people say yes. Currently wind adds less than £20 a year to consumer bills, but we’re not taking this support for granted, and the wind industry is going to work hard over the next few years to reduce costs even further, ensuring that we have a clean, secure, affordable energy source which can provide tens of thousands of jobs in areas of the country which need them most”.
In other news this week, turbine manufacturer Gamesa announced that it has developed a new turbine maintenance and refurbishment program. This new program can potentially extend the operational lifespan of a wind turbine by around ten years. Currently wind turbines have an operational lifespan of around twenty to twenty-five years. Given that many other turbine manufacturers are expected to follow Gamesa in developing such programs it could become common to see wind turbines generating electricity for up to thirty fives before requiring replacement. The development of such programs is particularly timely given that many of the earliest installed turbine models are now nearing the end of their operational lifespan. The use of such maintenance schemes as that announced Gamesa could mean that there would be no drop off in installed wind generation capacity levels.
Turbine maintenance is expected to become a growth market in the future as more and more wind turbines are installed in the United Kingdom, Europe and Worldwide. More wind turbines creates an obvious need for more turbine maintenance. Additionally Gamesa announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Forth Ports Authority to establish an offshore wind turbine manufacturing plant in Leith. Yet another example of the job creation potential of the wind energy industry.
Gamesa’s Global senior vice-president Fernando Valldeperes announced the development of the program stating: “Gamesa has been asked by the EC to come up with a standard process for life extensions for the whole of Europe, for which we had the first meeting last month … we’ve also been working with [green energy consultancy] Garrad Hassan to help them with this.”
The polls carried out this week reveal that a majority of the British public, irregardless of their political persuasion, support the development of more of the UK’s wind resource and would be happy to see such developments occur in their local area rather than just in some unloved corner of the country. When we see the developments in the technology itself and the job creating potential of the industry it is easy to understand why.