The results of the first nationally representative survey of public perception of offshore wind farms in Ireland released by MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine hosted by University College Cork, details the opinions and attitudes of 1,154 people who took part and reveals significant support from the Irish public for developing offshore wind farms in Irish waters.
This coincides with the recent government announcement concerning plans to ‘transition’ seven offshore wind projects in the Irish Sea. This involves a clear development pathway for those initial projects, as an opportunity to decarbonise our electricity system. Under a new planning regime, the seven projects will be able to apply to An Bord Pleanala for planning consent, and public consultation will be enabled.
Prior to this national survey there was little understanding of the perception of the Irish public of offshore wind farms, so it is timely information on public opinion regarding offshore wind farms in light of the government announcement.
Most of those questioned believed that Ireland is too reliant on foreign energy and understand that Ireland is running out of its limited fossil fuel reserves. The majority of people believe that the government is not doing enough to reduce carbon emissions. 87% of people surveyed said they would not object to the development of an offshore wind farm off the coast of their locality, while 93% of those questioned would not object to the development of an offshore wind farm anywhere in Irish waters
The study is part of the EirWind project which is developing a blueprint for the offshore wind sector. This includes analysis of cost, environmental, technological and social factors associated with developing the offshore wind sector in Ireland.
Yvonne Cronin, lead researcher on the public perception study said that “moving turbines offshore can help to overcome issues of space for wind turbines on land. It can also help to meet targets for clean, renewable energy, and create jobs as Ireland seeks to rebuild the economy”.
In the survey 83% of people said they supported a transition to renewable energy, with 73% believing that offshore wind farms could help Ireland meets its European carbon reduction targets.
Results show that those with experience of offshore wind farms are more positive towards offshore wind farm development in Irish waters, than those with no experience of them. In terms of the effect on wildlife, tourism and aesthetics, respondents found offshore wind farms to be relatively unobtrusive and in general a positive addition to the sea scape. 60% of those who answered shared the opinion that seeing offshore wind turbines made them feel that they were helping to stall climate change.
The final results of all studies arising from the EirWind project will be presented during a forthcoming webinar, that will be open to the public, on 25th June 2020. Details will be available on www.marei.ie/eirwind