Questionnaires have been sent to about 800 randomly selected residents, state officials said. The 34-question survey asks readers about their feelings on the state's renewable energy goals, whether they consider wind turbines attractive and whether seeing a wind turbine would affect their visits to the beach.
The responses should be returned to state authorities next month.
"In order for something to be successful, you really need to know what people are thinking," said Thomas Getz, an assistant to the director of the Department of Environmental Management, who is overseeing the surveys.
Public reaction remains a major wild card in developing wind power projects. Local opposition over aesthetics and other concerns have caused years-long delays for a developer seeking to build a wind farm in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod, Mass.
, which is still awaiting final federal approval.
Opposition to wind turbines remains largely untested in Rhode Island, which has only a handful of operating ones.
Gov. Don Carcieri's administration recently selected Hoboken, N.J.-based Deepwater Wind LLC to build a large wind farm capable of generating about 15 percent of the state's electricity needs miles off Rhode Island's coast. The company still needs to secure financing and must seek permits before construction could begin.
In the near term, Narragansett and the state DEM are interested in building onshore wind turbines at five sites in Narragansett, a blustery coastal town on Narragansett Bay, including locations near the Port of Galilee and a wastewater treatment facility near Scarborough State Beach.
The goal is to construct wind turbines that could power specific buildings or facilities and sell surplus energy generated by the wind turbines back into the power grid for others to use. Authorities want the project built by the end of next year.
Four companies Ameresco Inc., Chevron Energy Solutions, Solaya Energy LLC and Verterra Renewable Energy have submitted bids to build up to five wind turbines on some or all of those sites. No selections have been made, and DEM officials declined Tuesday to release the proposals.