Interior to gauge turbines’ impacts on seaside tourism, recreation

Source: Phil Taylor, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Interior Department plans to survey beachgoers from Massachusetts to South Carolina about how wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean would affect their travel and recreation plans.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has contracted with the University of Delaware to ask about 1,400 visitors to East Coast beaches whether turbines on the horizon would make them more or less likely to return.

The results could aid BOEM as it auctions and develops federal waters for wind farms from New York to Virginia and beyond.

“While we have seen significant interest in offshore wind power development in recent years, the absence of baseline data for specific areas along the Atlantic coast and the absence of a broader regional study on tourism and wind power have made it difficult to identify and analyze the potential impacts of offshore wind development on coastal tourism and recreation,” BOEM said in a proposed information collection request to the White House Office of Management and Budget set to appear in tomorrow’s Federal Register.

BOEM said the survey will help inform its offshore wind development and marine spatial planning efforts, as well as assist states and coastal communities in their own planning efforts.

BOEM in September 2012 awarded $200,000 for the university to provide “a broader regional impact analysis” of offshore wind and coastal tourism and recreation.

The university’s Internet-based survey will build off of recent studies of offshore wind’s impacts in Delaware, New Jersey and North Carolina.

For example, a 2010 university survey of 1,000 beachgoers in Delaware found that about 1 in 4 would switch beaches if a wind farm were located within about 5 miles of shore. But the study also found that respondents would more strongly avoid beaches due to the presence of a fossil fuel power plant located within the same distance onshore.

The study also showed the potential for offshore turbines to attract beachgoers.

“Respondents’ attraction to both offshore wind boat tours and to beaches themselves in order to see wind turbines is substantially greater than reported avoidance of beaches with visible wind turbines,” the study concluded.

Most of the wind energy areas BOEM is reviewing for lease auctions are located at least 10 miles from shore, a distance that further diminishes their stature on the horizon.