NIMBYs in Minority? Many Residents Welcome Massive Turbines

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Whether it is spiritual opposition to Cape Wind from Native Americans or Earth First's anti-wind power actions, there is plenty of opposition to wind turbines out there. But then, there's plenty of support too. The trouble is, the supporters don't tend to shout as loud. One survey has just come out that may give some of these people a voice. I should note from the outset that he proposed siting of 4 massive wind turbines in the Berkeley Vale, just outside Stroud in the UK, is not without controversy. Operating under the name of Save Berkeley Vale, a vocal group of residents has raised strong concerns about the impact of these turbines on their valley. Nevertheless, Ecotricity—the company proposing to erect the turbines—claims that an independent survey of 500 residents living within 6 miles of the site shows an overwhelming majority in support of the project.

The poll, conducted by telephone by research company GfK NOP, found 66% of residents in support of the project and just 12% against. Ecotricity CEO Dale Vince argues that these results are indicative of other proposed wind power sites, where the loudest voices don't necessarily correspond with the most commonly held views:

"When plans for windmills are unveiled, the small minority of people who are strongly opposed are the only people that the media or the council planning committees hear from or about. The vast majority of people who support the idea or who are untroubled by it - remain silent. That's human nature. The problem comes when planning committee members don't recognise this. We see this too often, the small loud minority being mistaken for the voice of the people. And planning committee members feeling they have to refuse a project; even when officers of the planning department recommend consent - on the mistaken pretext of public opposition."

Of course the old idiom about lies, damned lies and statistics is a cliche for a reason—it would be interesting to see a few more polls before drawing conclusions about the situation in Stroud. It should also be noted that Stroud is the birthplace of Ecotricity—a significant employer in the area—and also somewhat of a hub for environmentalism and green thinking. So it would be dangerous to draw conclusions from this poll about statistics in other locations.

Nevertheless, the whole issue does raise an important question—how can we give a voice for those of us who support wind power, even in our own communities, but aren't necessarily going to man the barricades to make it happen?