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Sustainability, Uncategorized

How close are you willing to live to renewable energy?

Support for making a societal shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy is growing but one of the issues is where to locate things like solar and wind farms. These generation points don’t have the same ongoing emissions as fossil fuel run plants so there is potential to locate them closer to communities without the same health considerations. There are benefits to having these spots closer in terms of minimizing energy loss through transition/transport. However, people may be resistant to having these renewable farms close to residential areas.

Harold, Bertsch, Lawrence, and Hall (2020) surveyed residents of the US, Germany, and Ireland to assess their support for renewable energy and their willingness to locate the renewable energy generation sites near where they lived. I live in North America, in Canada which has more space than than the US. Space is a luxury. But it isn’t a luxury that is recognized by many people. Instead, we take advantage of the amount of space available. This results in a not in my backyard (NIMBY) mentality. We support things but not when they are too close to us. I’ve also travelled to Germany where space is more constrained and solar panels are common. They don’t have the luxury of a NIMBY attitude.

This matches the findings of Harold et al. Residents in all three countries were generally supportive of decarbonisation, the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energies. However, they were not equally willing to have those new generation sites close by, within five kilometres of their home. Residents of Germany were most willing to have these sites nearby, followed by Ireland and then the US. Wind turbines were less welcome for both Irish and American responders compared to solar panels.

Environmental sustainability had one of the strongest relationships with preferences, particularly if participants weighted environmental sustainability higher than economic viability. On the other hand, socio-economic factors didn’t have much of a mediating impact.

This matters because there are benefits to locating energy nearby but if the general population won’t support it then location can create one more barrier in an already barrier ridden landscape. I personally would be thrilled if I had a solar farm nearby, perhaps on the roofs of nearby schools so that they may also serve an educational purpose. True to the findings of Harold et al however, I also believe that an economy that can’t put the health of people and planet first is somewhat of an issue.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.

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