Delaware University Studies Turbine Distance Impact

The University of Delaware in the U.S. has found that the distance at which turbines are located from shore has a significant impact on how tourists feel about offshore wind projects.

Professors George Parsons and Jeremy Firestone surveyed 1,725 beachgoers on the East Coast by showing online visual simulations of a project featuring 100 6MW turbines at different distances from shore and in clear, hazy and nighttime conditions.

The research project, funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), investigated whether the projects would affect the participants’ beach experience and/or cause them to change their trip plans.

Most BOEM offshore wind leases are projected to be installed at 13 or more miles offshore, thus respondents were shown 150m tall turbines ranging from 2.5 to 20 miles offshore, according to the university.

At the 12.5-mile mark, 20 percent of the respondents reported their experience would be worsened by the turbines, 13 percent reported it would be improved and 67 percent reported no effect.

In contrast, at 20 miles offshore, 10 percent of the respondents reported their experience would be worsened, 17 percent said it would be improved and 73 percent said it would have no effect.

The break-even point, or the distance where as many would be better off as those who would be worse off, turned out to be 15 miles offshore.

“Not surprisingly, we find that when simulated wind turbines are close to shore, particularly at 2.5 and 5 miles, a large percentage of beachgoers indicate that their experience would be diminished,” said Parsons, Professor and Associate Director of the School of Marine Science and Policy and Professor in the Economics Department.

Firestone, Professor in the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment and Director of the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, added: “As turbines are located farther from shore, fewer feel that way. They’re also more likely to choose to go to another beach when the wind turbines are up close and that diminishes as you get farther away.”

According to the researchers, the size of the effect is important to BOEM for documenting the impacts of wind turbines on local economies.