KITTY HAWK, N.C. -- A study released Monday by North Carolina State University suggests most Outer Banks vacationers would protest with their feet and wallets if made to look at offshore wind turbines from the beach.
"Eighty percent of respondents would either not come back to the same vacation spot if turbines were built offshore, or said they would require such large price discounts to re-rent at the same location as to be unrealistic," according to a statement from NCSU’s Center for Environmental and Economic Resource Policy.
“People want their beaches to remain in a natural state,” said center Director Laura Taylor.
The study included 484 respondents who viewed images of an array of offshore wind turbines as close as 5 miles and far away as 18 miles. Respondents were less troubled when the 500-foot-tall turbines were more than 8 miles from shore, where the towers are not as visible, Taylor said.
Despite opposition to wind turbines in the beach view, nearly two-thirds of the respondents supported offshore wind energy, the study showed.
Plans for wind turbines off the coast of Kitty Hawk were reduced two years ago and moved far offshore.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management identified three areas off the North Carolina coast for wind energy projects in 2012. The zone near Kitty Hawk was to be 877,837 acres and come as close as 6 miles. Several agencies including the National Park Service, the World Shipping Council, the Virginia Maritime Association, the Town of Kitty Hawk and the U.S. Coast Guard either opposed the plans or called for changes. The federal environmental agency reduced the size of the area off Kitty Hawk in 2014 to 122,405 acres, and said turbines would be located at least 27 miles offshore.
Two others near Wilmington decreased slightly in size and remained between 12 and 17 miles offshore.
The study shows the economic harm a near-shore wind farm could cause for any coastal town, or if BOEM changes its plans to shrink the array off North Carolina, Taylor said.
BOEM has awarded 10 commercial offshore wind leases – eight through its competitive lease sale process including two in Rhode Island, two near Massachusetts, two near Maryland, one near New Jersey and one off the Virginia coast, according to the agency.