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A strong relative preference for wind turbines in the United States among those who live near them

Nature Energyvolume 4pages311320 (2019) | Download Citation


Studies on social acceptance of wind power projects typically evaluate wind power in isolation, or as a choice between wind and no wind. However, at a societal level, the choice is not limited to whether, how or where wind turbines should be sited, but whether society should generate electricity by wind or from some other source. Consequently, it is important to understand whether those living near local wind projects prefer them relative to other local power projects. Here, we show that approximately 90% of individuals in the United States who live within 8 km of a wind turbine prefer their local wind project to a centralized power plant sited a similar distance away. Wind is also preferred three to one over solar among the approximately two-thirds who have a preference. These results are relatively consistent across states with different characteristics, suggesting a strong social preference for wind turbines among their neighbours.

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Data availability

A copy of the survey and codebook for the database is available at A de-identified version of the basic database is available upon reasonable request from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, with extensions available from the corresponding author upon approval to ensure proper handling of human subjects data.

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The authors thank the United States Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for making the dataset publicly available, and the researchers on that project (in particular, the project investigator B. Hoen) for undertaking the survey and preparing the dataset.

Author information


  1. College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA

    • Jeremy Firestone
  2. College of Arts and Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA

    • Hannah Kirk


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J.F. devised the research question, gathered additional data, performed statistical analysis and interpretation of the data, and wrote the initial draft of the manuscript. H.K. performed statistical analysis, reviewed, commented on and edited the manuscript, and prepared draft figures.

Competing interests

J.F. has held various roles related to a 2-MW wind turbine adjacent to the University of Delaware’s coastal campus since its commissioning in 2010, and has been a director of the legal entity First State Marine Wind, which has owned and operated the wind turbine since 2016. The University of Delaware has majority control of First State Marine Wind; Siemens Gamesa, the manufacturer, is the minority partner. The turbine provides electricity to the University of Delaware campus and to Lewes, Delaware. Net proceeds are used for research and graduate fellowships. He has held these positions at the desire of his employer, the University of Delaware, and receives no compensation beyond his regular university salary for this service.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeremy Firestone.

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