One in two Brits would be happy to live next to an onshore wind farm

The Eco Experts

As part of our National Home Energy Survey we can reveal that one in two Brits would happily live next to an onshore wind farm.

Wind power is growing across the UK, and in the ongoing debate over soaring gas and electricity prices, you could easily say that wind power will only continue to increase in importance.

We surveyed 2,134 UK adults and found some interesting differences in how the generations answered, and how opinions on living next to wind farms changes across regions of the UK.

An image of white houses in a valley, next to green hills and under a blue sky

How many Brits would live beside a wind farm?

pie chart showing that 49% of the people we surveyed said they would live next to an onshore wind farm

49% of the people we surveyed said they would live next to an onshore wind farm, which is hugely encouraging and a clear statement against the government’s apparent dislike of them.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he wanted to ban onshore wind farms when he came to power last year, but with one in two Brits happy with living next to them, it’s clear any ban would be unpopular.

We can understand why — the last 12 months have shown that relying on fossil fuels to generate electricity is risky and expensive. Prices for gas and electricity have shot up throughout 2022, because of factors such as increased demand after the pandemic, and Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Wind turbines on the other hand, just need a strong gust to generate massive amounts of electricity. Look at how wind power performed in November 2022 — wind farms produced a record 20 gigawatts (GW) of electricity, which represented over 70% of all electricity generated in the UK.

And in December 2022, the record was beaten again after wind turbines contributed 20.9 GW to the UK’s grid.

But what of the people who didn’t say yes to living near an onshore wind farm? Our survey revealed that just 20% of Brits said ‘no’ to the idea, with the remaining 31% saying they weren’t sure.

The survey also revealed another interesting perspective — 18% of the people who said they believed we’re experiencing a climate emergency, also said they wouldn’t live near a wind farm.

A further 30% of the people saying ‘yes’ to going through a climate emergency said they ‘weren’t sure’ about living next to wind turbines. This is interesting because wind has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions, which are directly contributing to human-made climate change.

How do different age groups feel about onshore wind farms?

Our survey highlighted something curious about attitudes towards living near onshore wind farms — enthusiasm actually increases with age, until a slight drop off for the Silent Generation (born 1928 – 1945).

So that’s 78% of Boomers (born 1946 – 1964) saying ‘yes’ to living near wind turbines, which is fascinating because traditionally this is the generation most reluctant to adopt and be keen for low-carbon technologies.

Gen Z (born 1997 – 2013) responded with a measly 43% saying ‘yes’. This really surprised us because our survey showed they were the generation most concerned about climate change — 91% to be exact.

Millennials (born 1981 – 1996) gave a better showing at 67%, but again it was lower than Boomers and the Silent Generation, who were 71% in favour of homes near wind farms.

The difference in responses for generations also ran contradictory to our questions about whether you’d buy a home with solar panels, with 65% of Boomers saying ‘yes’ compared to 74% for Gen Z and Millennials respectively.

How does enthusiasm for onshore wind farms change across the UK?

Wales is the part of the UK most enthusiastic about living next to an onshore wind farm, with 64% of people in Wales saying ‘yes’.

Looking at how people in Wales responded to other parts of our survey, we’re not too surprised. They were the most keen to buy or rent properties with solar panels with 75% saying they would, and they topped the list of people who’ve taken steps to improve the efficiency of their homes — 62%.

It’s a different picture if you look at London though, with just 42% of people living in the capital saying they’d be happy to live next to a wind farm. We should take this with a pinch of salt, as there’s a chance respondents said ‘no’ because it’d mean leaving London.

Building wind farms in London is a tricky thing to do after all, not least due to lack of space but because there just wouldn’t be enough wind with the buildings blocking most of it.

Why are some people reluctant to live next to an onshore wind farm?

The reasons why people are reluctant to live next to an onshore wind farm are varied. Some people won’t purely for aesthetic reasons, and others still aren’t convinced of their effectiveness, even though 2022 was the best year for wind power in the UK ever.

One respondent in our survey said they wouldn’t want to live near wind turbines if “they were a) visible, b) noisy, c) under construction, d) frequently had maintenance issues, e) created excess noise from cranes being used for repairs.”

They did add that they’d be keener to rent a property if meant the rent was cheaper because of the turbines. There’s a sense here that people are concerned about wind turbines reducing a property’s value.

Another, who also said they would prefer not to live near a wind farm, said they might be swayed if there was an “offer of free or heavily discounted electricity from the supplier.”

This makes sense — renewable energy should be cheaper because it doesn’t rely on the fluctuating prices of fossil fuels. As we’ve seen over the last 12 months, rising energy bills are making the need for affordable, renewable energy greater than ever.

We also heard a lot of concern for wind turbines’ impact on nature, with several respondents saying they were worried about the number of birds killed by rotating turbine blades.

Are people justified in their dislike of onshore wind farms?

A lot of people’s dislike of onshore wind farms comes down to personal preference, and of the responses we got, none seemed to suggest they thought wind farms were bad in general.

The most common response was people not wanting wind farms to spoil their view, or not wanting to deal with the noise pollution, even though modern wind turbines emit just 40 decibels (dB) at a range of 350 metres. A standard refrigerator emits 50 dB, so you’re unlikely to even notice the sound coming from wind turbines.

As for birds being killed by wind turbines, yes it’s an issue but the numbers pale into comparison when you look at the numbers of birds killed by domestic cats — roughly 100,000 a year for wind turbines, versus an astonishing 27 million for our feline friends.

And unlike the unchanging instinct of Felis Catus, we can change our approach to wind turbines. Norway has begun experimenting with painting the blades on wind turbines black for example, and it’s already cut bird deaths by 72%.

Even despite bird deaths, the noise, and the perception that wind turbines are ugly, the reality is that if we don’t shift to more renewables like wind power, the impact to the countryside will be far worse — droughts caused by climate change will wither fields and flash floods brought by more extreme storms will wash away topsoil.

Explore the rest of our National Home Energy Survey 2023

See the results

What’s the future of onshore wind farms in the UK?

Onshore wind farms will expand in the UK, whether Rishi Sunak is keen on them or not, because they’re essential in moving the UK towards a renewable future.

Our survey proves their growing popularity too, and we believe it’s only a matter of time before more than half of the UK would want to live next to a wind farm. It’s a case of stereotypes being disproved, particularly in terms of noise and visual appeal.

You can see how this year’s survey results have differed from last year’s National Home Energy Survey by clicking on the link.

Written by:
Tom Gill
Tom joined The Eco Experts over a year ago and has since covered the carbon footprint of the Roman Empire, profiled the world’s largest solar farms, and investigated what a 100% renewable UK would look like. Tom has a particular interest in the global energy market and how it works, including the ongoing semiconductor shortage, the future of hydrogen, and Cornwall's growing lithium industry.
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