Offshore wind is one of the most publicly-acceptable forms of renewable energy, according to research conducted on behalf of the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc). Only solar photovoltaic (pv) energy is viewed by the UK public more positively.
Face-to-face interviews with more than 2,000 households were conducted in March, in part to help Decc understand UK public attitudes to future energy infrastructure options. Some of the survey results echo the findings of another recent poll, commissioned by energy firm EDF, which concluded that offshore wind is the UK public’s preferred energy option (Windpower Offshore 04-Jul-12).
Asked whether they support specific renewable energy options, 79% of surveyed households said they approve of offshore wind with a further 15% indicated that they neither approve nor disapprove of the technology.
Just 7% said they oppose offshore wind developments, a significantly smaller proportion than the 12% that oppose onshore wind. Also worth noting is that full 30% of respondents feel that the risks of nuclear power outweigh the benefits.
Only solar pv achieved a higher approval rating amongst renewable energy options, at 83%. Another category of marine renewable energy also won strong public support – wave and tidal.
Almost the same proportion of respondents that support offshore wind agree that renewable energy developments "should provide direct benefit" to the communities in which they are located. How offshore wind developers can satisfy local residents’ desire to receive tangible benefits from nearby projects has not yet been fully explored.
As recently reported by Windpower Offshore, E.ON is discussing the possibility of agreeing a minority community-owned stake in its Rampion offshore wind farm, to be built off the Sussex coast (Windpower Offshore 02-Jul-12).
Concern about public resistance
Opposition to onshore wind has become a significant political issue in the UK in recent months, led by elements within the Conservative Party that are campaigning for a reduction in public subsidy and tighter controls on permitting.
While landscape impacts are often cited as a source of resistance to onshore wind, resistance to offshore wind has centred, thus far, on the sector’s high cost of energy (Windpower Offshore 13-Jun-12).
It is too early to judge how public attitudes to offshore wind may alter in response to Decc’s recent refusal to grant permission for the construction of Docking Shoal offshore wind farm. The ministry turned down Centrica’s application to proceed with the project on the grounds that its impact on a seabird species, the sandwich tern, would be too great.