National Energy Needs Not Enough to Justify Local Wind Projects, Expert Says

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nova-scotia-windmill Renewable energy interests have effectively linked themselves to key issues of national importance, but it’s not enough to overcome citizen opposition when a project is proposed for their community.

That’s the conclusion Saint Consulting Senior Vice President for Energy Ben Kelahan expressed in a news article reported in Wind Energy Weekly.

Local opposition to wind energy projects persists, despite the American public’s overwhelming support for wind power, Kelahan pointed out.

An impressive 82% of Americans say they support wind farm projects in their hometown, up from 76% a year ago, according to the 2009 Saint Index© survey of 1,000 U.S. adults.

And 79% Americans do not believe a large wind farm project is detrimental to their health and welfare, according to the Saint Index. North American Wind Power just published its own report on the Saint Index.

Nevertheless, wind power projects are encountering strong opposition in many locations — often based on arguments that they would diminish the local quality of life.

Wind power advocates cannot rely on the nation’s obvious need to develop alternative energy sources as sole justification for permits and construction approvals, Kelahan says. It is crucial for wind project proponents to invest in strong education efforts at the local level. And they must effectively demonstrate to local permitting authorities that most residents are not opposed, he said.

From Wind Energy Weekly :

“I do think the renewable energy interests, particularly wind, have done a very good job linking the key national issues of importance—jobs and the economy, energy independence, climate change—to their developments and educating the public and Capitol Hill,” Ben Kelahan, senior vice president for energy at the Saint Consulting Group, told Wind Energy Weekly.

However, Kelahan also pointed out that in spite of the survey’s effort to address the “not-in-my-backyard” issue by asking about locally sited projects, survey respondents nevertheless tend to answer more favorably than they might if a project were actually being proposed in their community. “Sometimes there can be a disconnect between the results on this kind of survey” and real-life situations when developers propose projects in communities, he said. For that reason, it remains crucial to invest in strong education efforts at the local level when projects are proposed, said Kelahan.

The lowest level of support by age group for wind power is among those over 65 (74% support ; 19% oppose). All other age groups are within 81-84% support.

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