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Survey Indicates Local Support for Offshore Wind Turbines

Jun 25, 2012 | News

Within the next decade, wind turbines could be operating off the South Carolina coast, their blades capturing ocean winds and producing clean, renewable energy for coastal communities. But proposals to install manmade industrial projects in nearshore ocean waters have historically faced strong opposition among coastal landowners and “marine recreationists”—that is, people who are strongly attached to coastal and ocean places.

Marine recreationists have often opposed projects because of perceived loss of aesthetic appeal, concern over possible losses of fishing areas, and impacts to wildlife.

A new survey, though, shows that 73% of marine recreationists, such as beach users and anglers, report some level of support for wind energy in the North Myrtle Beach and Georgetown areas of South Carolina. These two areas, which have the state’s strongest winds close to shore, are among the most feasible sites for wind turbines.

Sea Grant researcher Matthew Brownlee, who recently completed a Ph.D. in parks, recreation, and tourism management at Clemson University, and his colleagues surveyed 657 residents.

About 25% of people surveyed reported some level of opposition to offshore wind energy in the study region. The most frequent reason for opposition is that offshore wind energy would supposedly reduce scenic and natural beauty. Overall, however, people surveyed generally lacked a willingness or high likelihood to engage in civic action to oppose wind energy or support it.

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium provided “seed” funds to support this research. Study results have been provided to members of the South Carolina Regulatory Task Force for Coastal Clean Energy, representatives of state and federal natural-resource agencies, and public and private energy providers for their use as proposals for wind-energy development are offered.