Narragansett Beaches Clean Energy Opinion Survey
The Town of Narragansett was one of the two land-based areas in Rhode Island identified in the RIWINDS Report as having wind speeds that would support the construction of wind turbines. Because of this, DEM conducted an attitudinal survey at Scarborough, Roger Wheeler and Narragansett Town Beach in the summer of 2009 to determine public viewpoints concerning alternative energy topics, especially wind turbines. The Town of Narragansett provided assistance when the survey was conducted s at the Town Beach. The beach survey, with the exception of one question concerning home ownership, was the same one used in the Town of Narragansett survey.
DEM hired a summer intern to conduct the survey. The intern was trained in conducting surveys; was familiarized with the State/Town Request for Proposal for siting wind turbines in Narragansett; and was provided information concerning the generation of electricity from renewable resources.
The intern developed signage and was stationed at Roger Wheeler, Scarborough and Salty Brine State beaches along with Narragansett Town Beach. The survey was conducted from early July to Labor Day. During the eight weeks of sampling, 262 people were sampled. Of that total, 155 were residents of Rhode Island. The beach survey analyzed the results from Rhode Island citizens.
Based on the survey design, the survey has a 95% confidence level and a sampling error of +/-10%.
Some of the important findings from the survey include:
General Questions on Renewable Energy
General Views on Siting Wind Turbines in Narragansett
- 97% thought moving away from fossil fuels and towards the use of clean energy was an important issue.
- 97% said they supported clean energy technology because it was good for the environment.
- 94% responded that clean energy technology was good for the environment, important in reducing foreign oil dependency and to lowering their electric bill.
- 94% were positive concerning the use of wind turbines to generate electricity.
- 89% thought that clean energy would be good for the Rhode Island economy.
- 38% would not support clean energy technology if it is too expensive or not cost-effective.
- 24% said that noise was an issue for not supporting clean energy technology.
Questions on Siting Wind Turbines at Specific Sites
- 90% indicated they had seen a modern wind turbine in operation.
- 69% indicated they used the beach more than 10 times a year.
- 81% indicated the presence of a wind turbine would not make a difference in going to the beach and only 7% indicated they would be less likely to visit a beach with a visible wind turbine.
- 50% thought the wind turbines were neither attractive nor non-attractive, with 37% indicating they were at least attractive.
- 83% supported the placement of wind turbines outside of Narragansett.
- There was a support level of between 85-89% for land-based wind farms in Narragansett; wind turbine development limited to one or two structures on a parcel of land; or for three to five wind turbines being located in town.
- 83% supported wind turbines if they could not see them from their house, and 5% did not support the proposal.
- If the wind turbines could be seen from the house, the support dropped slightly to 78% of the responders, and 11% did not support the project.
- 89% supported wind turbines if they could not hear them.
- 57% supported wind turbines if they could be heard, while 24% did not support wind turbines if they could be heard.
There is support for all five sites in Narragansett. The range of support was from 83% to 89%, with the Scarborough Treatment Facility having the highest support and Black Point having the lowest. The opposition to the proposal varied from 5% to 10% with the Scarborough Treatment Facility having the smallest opposition (5%) and Black Point having the greatest opposition (10%).
Views on Specific Issues Concerning Wind Turbines
The survey identified the following issues where wind turbine projects in Narragansett would have a positive impact on residents:
The survey identified the following issues where wind turbine projects in Narragansett would have a negative impact on residents:
- 89% thought the wind turbines would have a positive impact on residents from an overall view of the project.
- Creation of new jobs (79%)
- General environmental considerations (77%)
- Electricity rates (74%)
- Air pollution levels (60%)
Of the 16 categories, there were five issues that were identified by the majority of the respondents indicating wind turbines would have no impact and included the following issues: public safety (79%); use of public beaches (76%); enjoyment of property (73%); traffic at turbine sites (70%), fishing activities (65%), tourism and related businesses (56%), and affect on the landscape (53%).
- Noise levels (24%)
- Property values (22%)
- Impact of the turbines on the landscape (17%), and
- Bird/bat life (15%)
Views on Ownership of Turbines
The responses indicated 55% of the people were more likely to support the project if the Town owned it and 50 % supported it if the state owned the project. The support dropped to 34% if the developer owned the project.
Survey Respondent's Personal Attributes
Primary Residence of Survey Respondent
- 52% of the responders were male and 48% female.
- 19% of the responders lived close enough to one of the five proposed sites to be able to see the turbines from their property.
- 48% were employed by others, 17% were retired, and 14% were self-employed.
- 63% were older than 45, 28% were in the age range 20 to 44.
- 22% had an average household income greater than $100,000.
- 54% had at least a Bachelor's degree.
The chart below is a summary of the primary residence of the 155 people who participated in the survey.
|Primary Residence of Survey Participants
% of Survey
|South Kingstown, Providence
|Cranston, Cumberland, Warwick
|E. Greenwich, Pawtucket, Smithfield, North Providence, E. Providence
|West Warwick, Lincoln
|Burrillville, Jamestown, Woonsocket
|Bristol, Coventry, Foster, Glocester, North Smithfield, North Smithfield, Richmond, Scituate, Warren, Westerly