Offshore wind blowback


Hello everyone,

Last week,  I suggested that skeptics of a plan to put electric lines from the Skipjack offshore wind project  into a small portion of Fenwick Island State Park to keep an open mind about the project.

If previous offshore wind plans are any indication that won’t happen. In this country and in Europe and Australia, offshore and onshore wind and solar farms are running into opposition.

Opponents range from the hardcore environmentalists who want  us to eat all veggies as a way to reduce cow methane to the not in my backyard crowd in resort areas. Added to the mix are those concerned about bird deaths and some elements of the fishing industry.

Caesar Rodney Institute takes the lead

David Stevenson of the  Caesar  Rodney Institute, a free-market focused public policy group,  has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the project.

He points to a  couple of studies that indicate the project could have a negative impact on tourism in Maryland and Delaware.

The tourism argument has been used by Ocean City  officials in an effort to halt Skipjack and the US wind projects.  Opponents saw a ray of hope when a state agency suggested  the added height of wind turbine towers should result in the project undergoing further study.

The reports from University of Delaware  and North Carolina State University  acknowledge the wind power can have a negative effect on tourism, with the impact being greater as wind turbine towers reach the height of New York City’s Chrysler Building

The North Carolina State study indicates that a large percentage of renters surveyed would  go elsewhere if wind turbines are visible from their temporary homes, Stevenson notes.

The Delaware study is more upbeat and misleading, according to Stevenson. Stevenson stated the study anticipates a three percent loss (six percent from people not coming down and three percent from visitors making boat tours of the turbine sites.

The impact of blinking lights

Stevenson says that another negative that was not in the  UD  report is  the blinking lights on the taller towers and their impact on people looking out from their decks.

Other objections include what he sees as a lack of transparency in negotiations between the state and Skipjack developer Ørsted over the deal that would give the park $18 million for improvements. Stevenson also says the substation handling the electricity from Skipjack would be larger than previously proposed.

The cost of a transmission line

“It may be the impact of lost tourism will be smaller than the surveys show, but even a 3 percent loss is $60 to $90 million a year and hundreds of jobs lost.  Why take the risk?  In Virginia a project is proposed at 27 miles off the coast.  Let’s do the same here, and since this is a Maryland project let the cable come ashore in OC,” Stevenson argued.

Ørsted has argued that wind turbine towers will only be a dot on the horizon at more than 15 miles offshore, even with the added height.  It remains  hard to nail down real time data on the actual impact of tourism with offshore wind.

One offshore wind farm

The U.S. has one sizable wind farm in operation, due in part to delays arising out of local opposition.

The marketplace also has ways to make adjustments. A loss in vacation rental revenue might be partially offset by landlords taking a haircut, trimming their weekly rates and attracting other vacationers. While that might hurt the resort sales market, the overall economic impact on tourism could be lessened.

Rehoboth Beach, which could see little impact from the Ocean City projects,  has already become less competitive as a rental destination, due. In part, to more people living in the beach town year around.

Stevenson has previously argued that the Maryland projects are heavily subsidized. The wild card is the mandate in Maryland and Delaware that utilities derive a quarter of the electricity from renewable sources by the mid-2020s.  

Without offshore wind, reaching renewable goals will be difficult. Moving turbines further offshore would increase costs and could eliminate some projects.

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