Energy

Offshore Wind Turbines Will Drown North Carolina’s Tourism

REUTERS/Phil Noble

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A study by economists at North Carolina State University showed offshore wind turbines built to comply with the state’s green energy mandate could destroy the tourism industry.

“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,” Laura Taylor, director of the university’s Center for Environmental and Resource Economic Policy and co-author of the study, said in a press release Monday. “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.”

The study surveyed people who had recently rented houses on the coast of North Carolina and asked if they would consider renting another vacation home with an oceanfront view. Photos of the view were included in the offer, but had been digitally altered to add up to 144 offshore wind turbines.

North Carolina’s offshore wind turbines are being built to comply with its green energy mandate, which requires the state to get 12.5 percent of its electricity from green sources by 2021.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed told the researchers they would not rent a vacation home if the offshore wind turbines were in view at all, no matter how large a discount they were offered. These respondents stated they’d change their vacation destination if wind farms were in their view.

The remaining respondents all required some form of discount before they’d rent the house. Even the portion of those surveyed most willing to tolerate the turbines demanded a minimum discount of 5 percent.

“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 wrote.

The researchers estimated moving a wind farm far enough offshore to avoid damaging the tourism industry would greatly increase the farm’s construction and maintenance costs.

Tourism is a major economic driver in coastal North Carolina. In Dare County, home of many of the state’s coastal vacation spots, tourism generated $1.2 billion in 2014.

Electricity rates in North Carolina have increased 2.5 times faster than the national average because of the green energy mandate, according to the conservative John Locke Foundation. The mandate has cost the state’s economy $14.4 billion in income losses and 24,000 jobs annually, according to a study by Utah State University. New wind power is three times more expensive than existing coal, nuclear, or natural gas power.

The state legislature is considering freezing the mandate as evidence mounts it’s hurting job growth and the tourism industry, as well as causing energy prices to increase.

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