Here’s what Americans think of local wind and solar development

The Pew Research Center surveyed Americans about how they feel about local wind and solar development in their communities – this is what they found.

Wind and solar in Americans’ backyards

As a whole, more Americans think wind or solar would help rather than hurt their local economy. But many believe it would make no difference or are unsure. Respondents were asked to consider the prospect of wind and solar separately, but their views on wind and solar turned out to be very similar.

When asked about the economic impact a new solar farm would have on their community, overall, 33% think it would help their local economy, 7% think it would hurt, 30% say it makes no difference, and 30% aren’t sure.

Americans similarly viewed the economic impact of a wind farm: 33% think it would help the local economy, 9% say it would hurt it, 27% say it makes no difference, and 31% aren’t sure.

If responses are divided by political leanings, Democrats are far more positive than Republicans about the local impact of solar and wind.

Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, 46% say installing a solar panel farm in their community would improve their local economy, 23% say it makes no difference, and just 3% say this would hurt it.

Contrast that with Republicans and Republican leaners – 21% say installing a solar panel farm in their community would improve their local economy, 39% say it makes no difference, and 10% say this would hurt it.

When the ages of those surveyed is considered, that impacts the results yet again – 45% of Americans under 30 think installing a solar farm would help the local economy, but only 24% of those 65 and older think the same.

Both Democrats and Republicans ages 18 to 29 are more likely than older people to see wind and solar having a positive effect on their local economy.

As for the aesthetics of renewables, 45% of Americans say a new solar panel farm in their area would definitely or probably make the landscape unattractive, and almost as many – 42% – say it wouldn’t do this. Feelings about wind were nearly identical.

On balance, more Americans think a local solar farm would lower the price they pay for electricity than not (44% vs. 37%, and 19% not sure). Views tilt positive (40%) on tax revenue impact, but 32% say they’re not sure, and 27% say it wouldn’t bring in more tax revenue.

If you’re curious about Pew’s methodology and who was polled (spoiler: it’s extremely balanced), that’s here.

Electrek’s Take

In some ways these responses are predictable, and in other ways they’re enlightening. The political divide is pretty much what I expected, and the differences in age demographics isn’t a shock – younger people are more familiar with renewables, and probably more open to new things.

What surprised and frankly disappointed me was the larger-than-expected percentage of Americans who don’t think renewables positively impact their local economies, or who aren’t sure. Solar and wind bring in significant tax revenue, create jobs, and, assuming the utility passes the savings down, reduces folks’ electricity bills. Why don’t more folks know about this at the local level?

I’m curious to hear from our readers why you think there isn’t more awareness of the benefits of utility-scale solar and wind at the local level. Is it NIMBYism? Propaganda? Lack of communication from local government? Electricity bills not budging? Let me know your thoughts below, and please be civil.

Read more: 49% of Americans think climate change is mostly someone else’s problem

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