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Study finds Del. residents would rather live near wind turbine than coal plant

Q2: U.S. Solar and Wind Power by the Numbers

Essential Energy Insights - September 17, 2020

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Study finds Del. residents would rather live near wind turbine than coal plant

Residents living near a Delaware wind turbine would pay nearly $31 a year to keep it around and would pay about $121 annually to make sure a coal plant would not replace it, recent research has found.

University of Delaware researchers Heather Thomson and Willett Kempton, in an article accepted earlier in October into the journal Renewable Energy, focused on Lewes, Del., where Gamesa Technology Corp. Inc. built a 2-MW turbine in 2010 for one of the school's satellite campuses, and Millsboro, Del., where NRG Energy Inc.'s coal-fired Indian River plant has been operating since the late 1950s. They surveyed homes closest to each power facility in 2014 about their general attitude toward the facility nearest them, its impact on their everyday living and how much they would pay to keep or remove the facility.

The researchers found that 348 residents living near the Lewes wind turbine would pay $2.56 per month on average to keep the wind turbine. They would pay nearly four times as much per month to ensure that the wind turbine would not get replaced with a coal plant.

Overall, 61% of residents liked the turbine while only 6% did not like living near it. Most of the Lewes residents said they either could not see or hear the turbine, or that its sight and sound had no effect on their everyday life.

SNL Image

Researchers from the University of Delaware found residents would pay about $31 a year to continue living near a utility-scale turbine such as this one.

Source: Associated Press

Millsboro residents living near the Indian River plant, however, had polar opposite attitudes toward the generation facility. Just 12% of 177 residents living near the coal plant liked it and 46% of them said the plant had negative effects on their lives. On average, these residents would pay $1.82 a month to get rid of it. They were also willing to pay a little bit more to replace the coal plant with a wind turbine.

"Because the coal generator has been in place longer, and because many in the local community rely on the coal generator for jobs but few did for the turbine, we might expect more local support for the coal plant," Thomson and Kempton wrote in their report. "This was not the case."

The researchers were also surprised by the Millsboro results given that the town voted for coal supporter President Donald Trump by a 3-2 margin in the 2016 presidential election. The survey did not ask for respondents' political affiliations, but Lewes was roughly split between Trump and Hillary Clinton, while both municipalities' county, Sussex County, went for Trump by a 1.6-1 margin in last year's election.

In 2005, Delaware established a renewable portfolio standard for renewable energy to make up 25% of electricity sales by 2025-2026, according to S&P Ratings. Gov. John Carney signed an executive order in August to create the Offshore Wind Working Group to explore how the state could develop offshore wind to its maximum potential.