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West Berkshire households support the idea of local wind turbines, claims a new Oxford Brookes University study

A university study has revealed the popularity of onshore wind farms in rural areas.

Nine out of 10 rural communities support the idea of local wind turbines, claims a new university study.

Researchers surveyed households in 10 communities, including Greenham Common and other locations in Hampshire. The choice of the former site was inspired by a Newbury Weekly News article from 2007.

Wind turbines in a rural area
Wind turbines in a rural area

The study, conducted by senior lecturer in psychology, Ben Kenward, at Oxford Brookes University, is part of a survey project called Surveying Opinion On Local Energy.

Questionnaires were filled in by 1,148 participants and followed up with doorstep interviews in five areas.

“Whilst our interview sample size is small, we have nevertheless shown that the majority of people in these communities who participated in the survey are in favour of wind farms,” said Dr Kenward.

“Another important finding of this research relates to how those people perceive the views of others,” he added. “This survey shows people tend to have a distorted view of others’ opinions.

“On average, people over-estimated opposition in their area five-fold.

“If this helps people to understand that others are also positive about renewable energy like wind turbines in their local area, it could spur further motivation for change.”

Dr Lee de Wit, an assistant professor of Psychology at the University Of Cambridge, specialises in political psychology.

Speaking about Dr Kenward’s research, he said: “This work reinforces a large body of literature which demonstrates we often misperceive support for different policies.

“This is particularly crucial for climate change, where rapid changes are needed, but Government needs to be confident those changes are supported by the public to take action.

“It is very easy for the voice of a vocal minority to be perceived to be more representative than it is.

“This work highlights how important it is to actually ask people their opinions, and to ask them in very concrete terms in relation to their own lives and lived environment.

“It also reinforces how we need to ask people in different ways, both through surveys, but also through door-to-door questions.”

Dr Kenward’s research has already been fed into a recent consultation by the UK government's Department for Energy Security and Net Zero entitled Developing Local Partnerships for Onshore Wind in England.

Dr Kenward and Alison Chisholm, a researcher at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, have submitted the consultation response.

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