Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Socioeconomic indicators of support/opposition and willingness to pay for offshore wind development in the Great Lakes

In 2009 Scandia, a Norwegian offshore wind developer, proposed a utility-scale offshore wind (OSW) farm near Ludington and Pentwater, Michigan. The project never reached fruition and was rejected – vehemently – by the nearby communities. Meanwhile, a non-profit group in Evanston, Illinois, has been considering the idea of offshore wind development but remains hesitant to launch official development support given how this proposal unfolded.

So, what socioeconomic factors were, and are currently, indicative of support or opposition for offshore wind development in these two areas? For my master’s research at the University of Michigan, I and three other researchers aimed to answer this question in these two regions: 1) Evanston, Rogers Park, and Wilmette, Illinois and 2) Mason and Oceana Counties, Michigan. In the main part of the survey, participants were presented with:

1) Industry developed simulations of a 400 megawatt (MW) OSW farm three (3), six (6), and ten (10) miles from each region’s respective shoreline; and

Caption: Simulated 400 MW Offshore Wind Farm near Pentwater, MI (3 miles)

2) One positive or negative price impact on their monthly electricity rates.

Respondents where then asked to vote ‘for’ or ‘against’ each combination of price impact and offshore wind farm distance.

While some results were surprising, others followed the cutting-edge, published literature out of the University of Delaware -- the leading U.S. institution that focuses on public perceptions related to offshore wind development around the Delaware and Cape Wind projects.  Here’s what we found:
  • Initial (probit) results suggest the variables for monthly increase/decrease in utility bill price, offshore wind farm siting distance, and liberal political ideology are statistically significant in determining the probability of support for the proposed offshore wind farm.
  • Mean willingness to pay (WTP) calculations suggest local communities would incur a social cost from siting a wind farm 3 and 6 miles offshore but a social benefit if it were setback 10 miles for the average respondent.
  • We also found notable uncertainty among respondents regarding not only their current support for offshore wind development but also in their perception of type and extent of its subsequent impacts.

Overall, these findings demonstrate a critical need for education on this technology’s likely environmental, social, and economic impacts; moreover, they suggest that at some point past 6 miles from the shoreline, some people are willing to pay more on their electricity bill and support building an offshore wind farm.

We are currently compiling these findings and expect to publish them in two peer-reviewed journals later this year. Please do not hesitate to contact me (lknapp@glc.org) if you’re interested in learning more about this study or would like to be notified once the results are published.

Lauren Knapp
Great Lakes Wind Collaborative

1 comment:

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