Public perception of offshore wind in Ireland

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Cronin, Yvonne
Cummins, Valerie
Wolsztynski, Eric
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Public attitude towards onshore wind farm development in Ireland has been extensively investigated. Prior to this study, there was little or no understanding of the perception of the Irish public of offshore wind farms (OSWFs). At this critical juncture in the development of the sector, it is necessary to gauge public opinion regarding offshore wind farms. Data was collected using an online survey (n = 1154) between May and June 2019. Results detail the opinions and attitudes of the Irish public toward the development of renewable energy projects in Irish waters. Demographics showed a 49% male, 51% female split. Education levels and age ranges roughly follow the same distribution levels as seen in the 2016 census of Ireland. Results indicate that attitudes to planned offshore wind farms change significantly with education levels. The evidence suggests that the link between climate change mitigation by energy emissions reduction and offshore wind farms is an important aspect of public perception that supports the development of the sector in Ireland. Most of those questioned believed that Ireland is too reliant on foreign energy and agreed that Ireland is running out of its limited fossil fuel reserves. The majority of people also believed that the government is not doing enough to reduce carbon emissions and should invest in offshore wind farms. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed believed that offshore wind farms will increase Ireland’s job creation potential. A clear majority of those who took part in the survey were in favour of offshore wind farms both on a local and national level. Just over half of the participants believed that offshore wind farms are the best solution to our energy situation. Thirty-seven percent of respondents trust offshore wind farm developers and 34% indicate that they were neutral on the subject. Fifteen percent of those who took part in the survey indicated that they mistrust developers. Approximately half of respondents had previous experience of offshore wind farms (the majority of whom had experienced offshore wind farms on holiday). A minority group had experience of offshore wind farms as a result of their daily commute or had an offshore wind farm in the vicinity of their homes. The data confirmed the hypothesis that experience of offshore wind farms has a significant effect on attitudes towards them. Results show that those with experience of offshore wind farms are more positive towards offshore wind farm development in Irish waters, than those with no experience of offshore wind farms. To further investigate the perception of those who are regularly exposed to offshore wind farms, a focus group involving five members of the public with regular exposure to Ireland’s only wind farm, Arklow Bank Wind Park, was held. The scope of sentiment expressed towards the offshore turbines ranged from benign to extremely positive. Returning to the results of the national survey; in terms of the effect on wildlife, tourism and aesthetics, respondents found offshore wind farms to be relatively unobtrusive and in general a positive addition to the sea scape. This report provides a resource for the offshore wind industry and policy makers alike. The data would suggest that an opportunity exists to create a public awareness campaign as a next step, to build on the favourable national mood and public understanding of the role of offshore wind in decarbonising the economy.
Offshore wind , Ireland , Renewables , Public perception , Stakeholder engagement , Renewable energy
Cronin, Y., Cummins, V. and Wolsztynski, E. (2021) 'Public Perception of Offshore Wind in Ireland', Marine Policy, 134, 104814, (9 pp). doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2021.104814