A new study by economists at North Carolina State University has found that offshore wind farms located near-shore would have a big impact on coastal tourism.
“We wanted to know what the impacts of wind farm installations would be on North Carolina coastal tourism, though our findings are also likely relevant for similar coastal vacation spots,” said Laura Taylor, author of a working paper on the study and director of NC State’s Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy. The authors, economists from North Carolina State University, found that most people would be unwilling to rent vacation homes that have a view of offshore wind farms — and those that would be willing would expect heavy discounts as a result.
“We found good news and bad news,” Taylor continued. “There was a lot of support for wind energy, but no one was willing to pay more to see wind turbines from the beach by their vacation rental property. And if turbines are built close to shore, most people said they would choose a different vacation location where they wouldn’t have to see turbines. However, the good news is that our results also show that if turbines are built further than eight miles from shore, the visual impacts diminish substantially for many survey respondents and it is unlikely the turbines would negatively impact coastal vacation property markets.”
The paper, The Amenity Costs of Offshore Wind Farms: Evidence from a Choice Experiment, was the result of a survey of 484 people who had recently rented homes along the North Carolina coast where there are currently offshore wind farm leases in play. Of the respondents, 56% had rented vacation homes every year for the previous five years, and a third of that 56% had rented exactly the same house.
Of the total respondents, after being shown a variety of photographs that depicted offshore wind turbines installed at various distances from the coast, 54% said they would not rent a vacation home if turbines were in view at all — no matter the distance, or the rental discount. 20% would rent, but only if there was an average discount of around 5% — though if the turbines were located 12 miles or further from shore, this group did not mind. The remainder 26% “made more nuanced tradeoffs.”
They needed rental discounts if wind farms were as far as 12 miles offshore – and the discounts they needed if turbines were closer than 12 miles were so high as to be completely unrealistic.
“If a wind farm was built 5 miles offshore and only 1,000 homes had impacted views – and had to reduce rents accordingly – we estimated the economic impact at $31 million over 20 years,” Taylor said. “The question then becomes, does that $31 million outweigh the cost of moving a wind farm further offshore?”
“The good news for North Carolina is that, at present, the state has removed all but one of the potential wind farm sites that are less than 12 miles from shore,” Taylor concluded. “But that could change. And our findings are relevant to other coastal regions that are family-oriented communities with many repeat visitors and have lower-density development that is mostly beach houses – these features are common all along the Atlantic seaboard.”