NOAA, BOEM weigh local ‘attitudes’ on turbine farms

Source: Emily Yehle, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, January 8, 2016

Federal agencies plan to survey residents of North Carolina and South Carolina on their support of proposed wind farm development off their coasts.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will use the survey’s results in evaluating commercial leases across more than 300,000 acres of federal waters. North Carolina’s outer continental shelf is the latest area that the Interior Department has eyed for commercial wind development (Greenwire, Sept. 17, 2015).

BOEM and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will work together to conduct the survey, which aims to gather responses from 4,000 residents over four months, according to a notice in the Federal Register.

Theresa Goedeke, a social scientist with NOAA’s National Ocean Service, said it will be the first time NOAA and BOEM have worked together to find out how residents in the area feel about wind energy development.

“NOAA researchers would like to understand how residents’ knowledge, beliefs, social values, and attitudes relative to local marine and coastal landscapes vary across community geography, and how this variation influences their comfort level with potential offshore wind energy development in their area,” she said in an email. “We hope to identify which factors are most important to residents when deciding whether to support or oppose offshore wind energy projects.”

BOEM plans to use the survey’s results as part of its environmental reviews on leases. It is one of many that BOEM is conducting with other agencies to evaluate the effects of outer continental shelf activities on “natural, historical and human resources,” according to Brandi Carrier, an archaeologist and the agency’s Atlantic regional preservation officer.

In September, BOEM concluded that leasing waters off North Carolina’s coast would have no significant impacts on the ocean or its users. It will next decide whether to issue leases.

But some coastal residents have voiced concerns over how a view of turbines will affect property values and tourism. Bald Head Island, for example, passed a resolution last month asking BOEM to move wind farms at least 20 miles offshore, according to The StarNews.

BOEM has already significantly reduced the area for wind energy development in response to concerns from the National Park Service, the Coast Guard and coastal residents. The final three wind energy areas include a 122,000-acre site 28 miles off the coast of Kitty Hawk so as to not affect the view. Two additional areas of 52,000 acres and 134,000 acres are closer, beginning about 12 miles off Cape Fear.