NORTH FORK – As the community of North Fork welcomes a biomass energy plant at the old mill site, residents are being asked to voice their opinions on the project.
Henry Swisher, a master of arts student at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, is conducting a research thesis on community-scale renewable energy projects as part of his M.A. degree in Sustainable Development.
Swisher has been studying Sustainable Development at the University for the past four years, but is originally from California’s Bay Area.
“I spent a lot of time in the Sierras when I was younger and want to help preserve them,” says Swisher, “but also to make sure that people living in the area can make a living. Sustainable development is all about creating a balance.”
Other sites Swisher has visited as part of his thesis are the villages of Kingsbarns and Huntly, both in Scotland.
“North Fork is one of the communities I have been working with, asking people about their attitudes towards the North Fork 1-megawatt bioenergy project,” says Swisher, who visited the site for three days in early February.
While in the area, Swisher was hosted by CDC president Dan Rosenberg, and spent time at Slim’s Koffee Shak conducting short, impromptu interviews with residents, gathering their thoughts and opinions about the biomass project. Now he has put a short survey online in hopes of reaching more people.
“I spent some time at the Buckhorn, and had some great conversations with people passing through,” says Swisher. “I also surveyed people who came into Slim’s and felt like taking part in a short two-to-three minute interview, as well as longer interviews with some of the NFCDC [North Fork Community Development Council] members and people more involved in the project planning process.”
The results of the survey will be used in Swisher’s research thesis, representing North Fork residents’ awareness of and attitudes towards the bioenergy project, as well as how much of a say they feel they have in the planning process. The North Fork survey results will be compared with results from two other communities implementing renewable energy projects.
Swisher says it would be a huge help to his research, and asks residents to take just a few minutes to take the survey by clicking here. The results will be completely anonymous.
“It’s important for people to take this survey because it will help me achieve a better understanding of what the people of North Fork actually think and feel about this project,” says Swisher. “Building this understanding is important not only for North Fork, but for other Sierra Nevada communities, because my research aims to provide information which will improve the way in which community-scale renewable energy projects are developed so that such projects can better deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the communities in which they are located. In short, by taking the survey you are ensuring that the research I publish is as accurate as possible and has a better chance of helping everyone involved with, or impacted in some way by renewable energy projects.”
Anyone who participates in the survey will have the chance to win a $40 gift certificate to Slim’s Koffee Shak, courtesy of Scott Marsh. The winner of the drawing will be notified on March 15.
Survey Link: https://standrews.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/cre