Public opinion watch: Vermont poll yet again finds strong support for wind power
After a great deal of contentious public debate and heavy media coverage, Vermonters continue to support the idea of building wind turbines along the state’s ridgelines by a wide margin, according to a recent poll of the general population conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute at Castleton Sate College.
The poll finds 66 percent of Vermonters supporting wind turbines along ridgelines. Castleton conducted a similar poll of registered voters in May 2012 for WCAX/WDEV/Vermont Business Magazine and found at that time that 69 percent of respondents expressed support for the development of wind energy turbines on the state’s ridgelines.
A news release from the Institute noted, “Unlike many controversial issues, the data do not show any significant differences in attitudes by party affiliation, gender, or income. There is a modest difference based on age, with older Vermonters less likely to support building on ridgelines than are younger Vermonters. Yet older Vermonters are only slightly more likely to oppose the building of wind turbines, as they are also more likely to offer no opinion on the issue.”
To measure the possibility that Vermonters would be less likely to support building wind turbines in their community than they are to support it generally, Vermonters were asked if they would favor or oppose the development of a wind farm in their community. Sixty-nine percent say that they would favor it in their community. Again, there are small differences based on party, gender, or income, and the differences found by age still remain.
Renewable Energy Vermont, a trade association supporting development of the state's renewable energy resources including wind, had the following reaction to the survey:
“Today’s poll by Castleton Polling Institute regarding energy in Vermont, and specifically wind energy on ridgelines, shows that the vast majority of Vermonters support clean energy and support wind on our mountains. Across the political spectrum, Republicans, Democrats and independents alike polled in the high 60 to 70 percentiles for wind along our ridgelines and in support of the development of a wind farm in their community. This is in keeping with all past polls – from the 2012 Castleton Poll, annual Town Meeting Doyle polls, to polls undertaken by the Vermont Public Service Department (http://www.csc.vsc.edu/polling/feb26_2013/pollresults.htm, http://www.castleton.edu/polling/may12/results.htm, http://www.raabassociates.org/Articles/VTENG%20Final%20Report%2011-27-07.pdf).
“'Utility-scale wind energy is the cleanest, most cost-effective new renewable energy available to us–stabilizing our energy rates much like a fixed rate versus adjustable rate mortgage helps homeowners know what to expect with their bills”, said REV Executive Director Gabrielle Stebbins. 'Not only is wind a critical part of our shared energy future, companies such as Northern Power, Aegis Wind, Northeast Wind, NRG Systems, J. A. McDonald, and component part businesses equate to a vibrant clean energy economy in Vermont.'
“Vermont is home to four utility-scale wind projects including Searsburg, Sheffield, Georgia Mountain and Kingdom Wind in Lowell. Collectively, these projects have a capacity of 119 megawatts (MW), power 46,000 Vermont homes, and provide $960,000 per year to the Vermont education fund, more than $1.2 million annually to the host communities and also provide $1 per megawatt to neighboring, non-host towns. They have undergone rigorous permitting processes–taking up to seven years for final construction to be completed, securing $8 million in decommissioning funds, and impacting just under 200 acres of land while conserving more than 5,500 acres. The Vermont Public Service Board, in partnership with the Public Service Department and the Agency of Natural Resources requires stormwater, sound, and aviary life monitoring and compliance plans in addition to other stringent permitting requirements.
“'The poll shows ongoing, broad-based support for all renewable energy,' states Martha Staskus, Chair of REV's Board of Directors, 'We must maintain Vermont’s leadership in developing a clean, resilient energy future – the will of the vast majority of Vermonters should continue to be reflected in our state laws and for the public good.'”
The Castleton Polling Institute data are based on 620 completed interviews, 130 of which were respondents reached by cell phone. The interviews were conducted between February 6 and February 17, 2013. For a sample of this size, the Institute said, the margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is +/-3.9 percent, although the margin of error is larger for questions involving subsamples of respondents. Added the Institute, “While sampling error is only one source of potential survey error, precautions have been taken to minimize other sources of error for this poll. The final data are weighted by age and gender to adjust for differences in response and to reflect the state’s demographics on these criteria.”
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