Earth & Energy

Cited studies don’t show wind farms hurt tourism

Last month I wrote about North Carolina’s environment secretary urging federal authorities to keep wind farms at least 24 miles off North Carolina’s shoreline.

Secretary Donald van der Vaart cited four studies commissioned by New Jersey, where a proposed wind farm would sit off Atlantic City. The studies, he wrote in February, “found that a significant decline in tourism and a net loss to the state’s economy” would occur if the farms could be seen from the coast.

But van der Vaart’s staff sent a follow-up email two weeks later. Three of the four studies, it told the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, showed no such blow to tourism.

“We realized that we mistakenly assumed the net economic loss reported in each study included an impact to tourism,” said the note, which the Sierra Club unearthed in a public records request. “However, upon further review, we have learned that only (one) study specifically reported a negative effect on tourism.”

That 2008 study, by economics consultant Global Insight, projected potential tourism losses of hundreds of millions if wind farms are close to New Jersey’s shore. Twenty miles offshore, it said, the state would see a net gain in tourism.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources email urged BOEM to still take all four studies into consideration because of their economic analyses.

Wind-energy advocates say a 24-mile offshore limit would effectively kill wind farms off North Carolina, which has some of the nation’s strongest wind power.

Two of the the three areas BOEM has identified for potential leases are within the 24-mile range. The federal agency has said the areas were picked specifically because they protected sensitive views and avoided other conflicts.