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Town of Narragansett Clean Energy Opinion Survey

The town of Narragansett was one of the two land-based areas in Rhode Island that was identified in the RIWINDS Report that had wind speeds that would support the construction of wind turbines. Because of this, DEM formed a partnership with the town concerning possible sites for the installation of wind turbines.

In March of 2009, DEM, with the assistance of the town, designed an attitudinal survey that had a 95% confidence level and a sampling error of ±5%. The survey was formulated to assist DEM and the town to understand the public sentiment concerning the siting of sources of clean green renewable energy. When it comes to the development of large scale renewable energy generators, public interest, participation, and opinion are a key priority. It is important to know where the public stands involving specific projects and sites.

DEM, with assistance form the town, conducted an attitudinal survey for the joint Narragansett Wind Energy project. Printed surveys were mailed out to random property owners in various neighborhoods in the town based on a list provided by the town. The first letter of the survey was sent in early summer, with subsequent letters sent out in July. (Narragansett Mailing) The survey includes 34 questions on renewable energy, opinions on the proposed sites, and background data for statistical purposes.

The survey was sent to 778 residences approximately 430 responses were returned. This number of responses constituted a sample size that was considered statistically significant.

A report was written concerning the survey. Attachment A of the report is a copy of the survey that was mailed. Some of the important findings from the survey included:

General Questions on Renewable Energy
  • 97% thought moving away from fossil fuels and to use more clean energy was an important issue.
  • 96% responded that clean energy technology was good for the environment, important to reducing foreign oil dependency and to lower electric bill.
  • 91% thought that clean energy would be good for the Rhode Island economy.
  • 44% said that noise was an issue for not supporting clean energy technology.
  • 89% of the survey respondents were positive concerning the use of wind turbines to generate electricity.
General Views on Siting Wind Turbines in Narragansett
  • 77% of the respondents indicated they had seen a modern wind turbine in operation.
  • 71% indicated they used the beach more than 10 times a year.
  • 83% indicated the presence of a wind turbine would not make a difference in going to the beach.
  • The majority of people (58%) thought the wind turbines were neither attractive nor non-attractive.
  • 69% supported the placement of wind turbines outside of Narragansett.
  • There was between 75-78% support for land-based wind farms in Narragansett; wind turbine development that were limited to one or two structures on a parcel of land; three to five wind turbines being located in town.
  • 75% of the respondents supported wind turbines if they could not see them from their house, and 7% did not support the proposal.
  • If the wind turbines could be seen from the house, the support dropped to 61% of the responders, and18% did not support the project.
  • 71% of the responders supported wind turbines if they could not hear them.
  • 38% of responders supported wind turbines if they could be heard, while 41% did not support wind turbines if they could be heard.
Questions on Siting Wind Turbines at Specific Sites

There is support for all five sites in Narragansett. The range of support was from 78% to 82%, with the Port of Galilee having the highest support and Black Point having the lowest. The opposition to the proposal varied from 9% to 14% with the Port of Galilee and the Scarborough Treatment facility having the smallest opposition (9%) and Black Point having the greatest opposition (14%).

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:
  • 78% thought the wind turbines would have a positive impact on residents from an overall view of the project.
  • Electricity rates (71%)
  • Creation of new jobs (55%)
  • General environmental considerations (54%)
  • Air Pollution levels (44%)
The survey identified the following issues where wind turbine projects in Narragansett would have a negative impact on residents:
  • Noise levels (33%)
  • Impact of the turbines on the landscape (28%)
  • Property values (23%) and
  • Bird/bat life (16%)
Of the 16 categories, there were six issues that were identified by the majority of the respondents indicating wind turbines would have no impact and included the following issues: public safety (81%); use of public beaches (77%); enjoyment of property (73%); traffic at turbine sites (72%), fishing activities (71%) and tourism and related businesses (68%).

Views on Ownership of Turbines

The responses indicated 72% of the people were more likely to support the project if the town owned it. The support dropped to 49% if the state or a developer owned the project.

Narragansett Beaches Survey

Additionally, surveys were conducted at state and town properties in Narragansett in July and August. These included Scarborough, Salty Brine, and Roger Wheeler state beaches, and Narragansett town beach.

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