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PSU study: Residents more responsive to wind farms if involved in process

PLYMOUTH — Plymouth State University's Viewshed Valuation Pilot Study of residents' attitudes on the value of scenic views affected by wind farms found discontent among Groton residents, where a wind farm went online in January.

The study, which is in the process of being summarized, found widespread individual values-based opposition in the Plymouth area to current proposals from two European wind power companies, said Professor Shannon Rogers, an ecological economist at PSU's Center for the Environment.

Two students involved in the project, Ashley Hyde of Peterborough and Rebecca Brown of Londonderry, have been studying recent news reports, information supplied by opponents and those favoring wind farms, and looking at similar situations in European communities, where the not-in-my-backyard sentiment was very strong, Rogers said.

That sentiment was also found in the Newfound Lake-Plymouth area, she said, even in Groton, a town in which a Spanish wind farm company just brought a 24-turbine wind farm online. State officials granted Iberdrola Renewables permits for the highly visible towers without much input from town residents.

Many Groton residents felt they didn't have any say.

"We are only beginning to scratch the surface of local attitudes towards the Groton Wind Farm but currently there seems to be mixed support. The discussion revealed a strong desire to preserve New Hampshire's natural assets for multiple interests," Hyde said.

The study also found that residents responded more favorably to wind farm projects if they were involved in the early proposal and planning stages.

"Being involved in the process early really mattered to people's values on the issue, for those in favor," Rogers said.

The students interviewed seven people from the area, several of them professionals, each of whom came from a different perspective — one had strong business interests, one was a watershed management specialist, etc. The residents expressed worries about the potential effect of 40-story towers and turbines on the area's economy.

"We are not taking a side," Rogers said. "Rather we would like to see what the underlying values are around these issues and how they might vary across the community."

Rogers hopes to hold a community workshop once the study is finalized to facilitate more informed decision-making that takes residents' values into account, she said.

She received a grant for the study from the National Science Foundation's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

She requested the grant "to stimulate community dialogs about the variety of ecosystem services encompassed in a viewshed and their associated values, including both economic and non-economic values."

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