WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Indiana residents are overwhelmingly
receptive to wind farms in their communities, even in areas that have rejected
turbine development, according to Purdue University studies.
Linda Prokopy, an associate professor of natural resources
planning, said much of the research on attitudes toward wind energy and wind
farms has focused on coastal states and the reasons people don’t want turbines
in their communities.
She and Kate Mulvaney, a former graduate student, wanted to
know how people in the Midwest feel about having wind farms in their communities
and the factors that led some places to embrace or reject them.
Prokopy and Mulvaney published two studies on their results
in the journals Energy Policy
Management . One focused on Indiana’s Benton County, which has
embraced wind farms.
The other study compared Benton County with two other
Hoosier counties — Boone County, which rejected wind farm development, and
Tippecanoe County, which at the time still was considering wind farms. The
researchers conducted surveys and interviews and studied local newspaper
articles on wind energy.
“We found that there is not a lot of opposition from the
people in the Midwest,” Prokopy said. “And there are not a lot of perceived
negative impacts from people who have or live near wind turbines.”
In each county, more than 80 percent of survey respondents
said they either supported wind farms in their counties or supported them with
That was the case even in areas where local governments were
against wind farm development or newspaper articles trended toward more negative
aspects of the farms.
“We would have expected differences in support based on the
media coverage, but what we found was support across the board,” Prokopy
Mulvaney said Benton County, which has more than 500
turbines and hundreds more approved, welcomed wind farms for a variety of
reasons, including local government support and options for diversifying
development within the agricultural-based economy.
“In Benton County, agricultural land is the basis of the
economy,” Mulvaney said. “Using the land to produce wind is the same or similar
to using the land to produce a crop in many people’s minds.”
The Purdue Extension educator in that county was
instrumental in helping to draft ordinances that benefited the communities in
which turbines would be located and providing residents with information about
wind farm impacts.
“He was definitely seen as a trusted source,” Prokopy
Despite support from residents, Boone County turned down
wind farm development. Prokopy said the biggest factors in that decision were a
well-organized opposition and a lack of governmental support.
“The opposition appeared to come from people who worked in
Indianapolis but lived in rural parts of the county. They wanted to preserve
their landscape,” she said. “They were in the minority, but they were very vocal
and, thus, influential in terms of local government.”
In Tippecanoe County, Prokopy and Mulvaney said the
government was supportive, but there also was a strong vocal minority.
“The opposition in Tippecanoe County was focused on
setbacks, noise regulations and other rules,” Prokopy said. “It was focused on
making sure people were protected.”
She said the data suggest the Midwest could be more
receptive to wind farm technology, especially in more rural areas that lack
“It certainly shows that many of the concerns that have kept
wind farms from developing on the coasts aren’t issues here in the Midwest,” she
The Purdue College of Agriculture funded the studies.