This article comes from the blog at US Wind
The proposal to build offshore wind projects in Maryland, approved by the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has been lauded and cheered by environmentalists, organized labor, Maryland manufacturers, and voters from the swing legislative districts of Baltimore County and Eastern Shore that favor renewable energy in their communities.
The United States, particularly the Mid-Atlantic region where Maryland is located, have an abundance of offshore wind resources, have significant siting and development opportunities in its waters, and have electricity demand growth and scheduled power plant retirements in its coastal states that offer opportunities for offshore wind development (deployment of which could lead to electrical system benefits for system operators, utilities, and ratepayers). Moreover, the country will largely benefit from its positive environmental and economic impact, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions, decreased air pollution from other emissions, reduced water consumption, greater energy diversity and security, and increased economic development and employment.
On the other hand, one concern that has been raised against the case for these projects is the perceived negative visual impact of wind farms that are thought to affect tourism or even property values. A published 2017 report from Sage Policy Group has concluded that there is “little evidence of negative impact on property values…visitation, particularly when offshore wind turbines are located 4 miles or more from home,” and adds that “…wind farms in a number of international and U.S. sites have emerged as tourist attractions.”
It also cited a Hoen (2013) report on wind farms in North America that found “no significant relationship between the views of wind turbines and a reduction in home values.” Sage Policy Group went further to note that “concerns…may simply be an instance of the general sense of unease that accompanies change.” And this is crucial in any discussion that opposes offshore wind farms on the grounds of visual impact.
Similar concerns were also expressed in Massachusetts. A study was commissioned by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to focus on the relationship between home values and proximity to wind turbines in more than 122,000 home sales in the state that occurred between 1998 and 2012 and property sales within five miles of current or future locations of 31 wind turbines across Massachusetts. It found no statistically significant evidence that proximity to a wind turbine affects values.
In North Carolina, a 2011 study involving coastal residents concluded that coastal wind turbines would have little impact on recreational visitation. A caveat indicating some evidence that would affect recreational choices is if the facilities were located less than one mile from shore.
The approved initial wind farm in Maryland will be located not less than 17 miles from the Ocean City shoreline in a nearly 80,000-acre area, which is not visible to the human eye. A quick anatomy lesson indicates that the farthest that the human eye can see without any obstruction is at a distance of less than 12 miles, and considering the point where Earth’s surface curves out of sight at 3 miles, as well as variable atmospheric conditions, these turbines will simply not be visible.
To further make the case for offshore wind farms, a December 2017 Visibility Threshold Study conducted by the State of New York that analyzed weather conditions, visibility constraints and factors, and visual simulations of hypothetical wind farm offshore of Long Island, reached the conclusion that “offshore wind energy projects of typical magnitude would have minimal visual impact at a distance of 20 miles and negligible impact beyond 25 miles.”
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