On the face of it, the options sound more like a hypothetical Hobson’s choice – but choosing whether to have a wind turbine or gas well next to your house could become an increasingly real dilemma in some areas.
And despite vociferous opposition to turbines across the West, a nationwide survey shows that more than two-thirds of people would rather have a wind turbine near their house than a shale gas well.
Asked to choose between having a turbine put up or a well drilled to extract unconventional shale gas within two miles of their home, 67 per cent opted for the renewable energy source and just 11 per cent favoured the gas development.
The topic will perhaps be most hotly debated in Mendip, which has seen huge resistance to turbines in the district, but has also been under consideration for the controversial process of “fracking” for shale gas.
The ICM poll of 2,027 people also found that more of those questioned would support wind power near their home than oppose it, with 49 per cent saying they would be likely to back turbines within two miles and 22 per cent likely to be against them.
Young people were more likely to support a wind turbine nearby, with 64 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds in favour.
One of the most recent schemes in the West is a community-led venture in St Briavels, in the Forest of Dean. Resilient Energy met with little opposition after it called for community investment in Europe’s first “democratically financed” turbine, a result borne out by the survey, which found more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of those quizzed said they were likely to support renewable projects in their area if they were owned by the community.
A majority of people in all age groups supported community-owned renewables.
Renewable energy topped the poll of people’s most preferred electricity source, with solar the most popular, followed by hydropower and offshore wind. Only a small number of those quizzed (4 per cent) said onshore wind was their most preferred electricity source, but it was favoured above coal and shale gas. The survey comes amid strong opposition within the Conservative Party to onshore wind, and growing support for shale gas development.
The Co-operative, which commissioned the survey, is also warning about the impact of exploiting a new fossil fuel source on efforts to cut carbon emissions to tackle climate change.