Ten years ago, on the tiny island of Tiree, part of the Inner Hebrides, the community development trust were looking for ways to keep their community resilient. They chose a wind turbine.
Locals loved it so much, they gave her a name. Tilley the turbine has touched every aspect of community life - providing funding for a local shop, a minibus service for older people, restoring the museum, upgrading broadband, building a tourism app and community sailing. Tilley is a member of their community.
Across the board, you might be surprised by how popular onshore wind is. Three quarters of people support it as an energy source. That’s higher than nuclear and fracking.
Co-op Energy polled people to ask how likely it’d be that they support a wind turbine being built within two miles of their home. And they got a majority of people saying yeah, they’d likely support it (52%, in contrast to 19% saying it’d be unlikely they’d support it).
What’s more telling, perhaps, is research with people who actually do live near wind larger wind farms (pdf). They generally felt the turbines had a positive impact on the area, and those living closer to wind turbines or those who saw the turbines every day supported them the most. Or to put it another way, if you do have a wind turbine in your backyard, you probably like it.
The first wind turbine in Swaffham, Norfolk was built in August 1999. The closest house to the turbine was a farm owned by John Blackburn. Anti-wind campaigners came to visit him, assuming he'd hate being so close. He turned them away because he really liked them. So much, in fact, that he installed a small wind turbine of his own.
In 2006 Ecotricity wanted to build ten more turbines nearby. How do the locals feel about that? Having lived harmoniously alongside these windmills for some years already, local people lodged no planning objections to the new wind farm.
Something else that’s interesting about the Co-op Energy poling is that they also ask how likely people would be to support local renewable energy projects if they were owned and controlled by the community, with the profits benefitting the community. Then the 52% goes up to 61%. Unlike a lot of other energy options - notably nuclear or oil - it’s pretty straightforward for communities to own their own wind power. If only the government would let us build them...
Banner image: Wakely Mulroney, creative commons