Young people more positive about offshore wind farms

A more positive outlook may impact how close to the coast future offshore wind farms and energy islands can be constructed and therefore also the costs of building these facilities and their ongoing operations.

Since 2004, DTU Professor Jacob Ladenburg has conducted multiple surveys of public attitudes towards the installation of both onshore and offshore wind turbines, as well as the visual disturbance caused by them.

These surveys were conducted by asking people how much they would be willing to pay to have large offshore wind farms moved further from the coast. This has been asked in scenarios which wind turbines are installed 8, 12, 18, and 50 km from the coast, respectively.

“We carried out surveys like this in 2004, 2007, and 2012—and we are hoping to carry out another one in 2023. On each survey, we have shown people visualizations of what the wind farms would look like from shore depending on the spcific distances. We also asked what increase in electricity prices they would tolerate to have the wind turbines further away from the coast,” explains Jacob Ladenburg.

Young people unwilling to pay to move offshore wind turbines

The same trend has been observed across all the surveys. Older members of the population are most willing to pay for moving offshore wind farms away from the coast. Young people, on the other hand, are markedly less willing to pay to move the turbines further out to sea, even when correcting for income levels.

“It will be interesting to clarify whether this correlates with age or generation. Are we becoming more reluctant to accept the sight of offshore wind farms as we age, or is it actually the case that the younger generation has grown up with wind turbines and simply finds them more palatable? If the latter is true, this may mean that opposition to visible offshore wind turbines is practically non-existent in 30 years’ time,” says Jacob Ladenburg.

“If we are able to build visible offshore wind turbines close to the coast without facing local opposition, this will result in much lower electricity production prices than when they are positioned far out to sea. Of course, this will also have an impact on the location and costs associated with the planned energy islands.”

Before this can be established, a new survey is required—Jacob Ladenburg hopes to conduct one next year. Among other things, the survey will seek to rule out the possibility that the results and positive attitudes are not attributable to other issues such as there being fewer young homeowners.

Increased and more nuanced knowledge of public attitudes on this issue is essential. If offshore wind farms are built closer to the shore in future, this will provide significant socioeconomic benefits since it is more expensive to build and operate these facilities far out to sea.

Local citizens are more positive

The surveys have also examined attitudes towards the location of offshore wind turbines among various citizen groups in areas where new wind farms are being considered. In this instance, there is a clear difference between permanent residents and holiday home owners.

“If you are a recreational user of the area and stay there at the weekend and during holidays to relax and enjoy nature, you are less willing to accept a visible offshore wind farm than if you live in the area on a full-time basis. The latter group identify a number of benefits for the local community and are thus more positive about the visibility of the offshore wind turbines,” says Jacob Ladenburg.

In the same way, the surveys show that the population’s knowledge and external circumstances have an influence on attitudes towards the location of wind turbines. For example, a survey from this summer shows that the current energy crisis had led to very high levels of acceptance of and support for renewable energy, including the prospect of seeing offshore wind farms from shore.

Study of nature and resources

Jacob Ladenburg was one of the first researchers in Denmark to use the above-mentioned economic method to examine people’s willingness to pay in the field of nature and resource economics. The method draws from the world of marketing, and was first used in the fields of health economics and transport. The method provides useful knowledge about society’s preferences for new technologies. As such, Jacob Ladenburg has several surveys in the pipeline, including studies that will examine Danes’ preferences for CO2 storage and the location of such deposits, as well as views on the possibility of a rise in power outages.