Studies: No impacts on tourism from Maryland offshore wind

Earlier this year, Maryland greenlit two offshore wind projects that would establish the state as a clear leader of this new ocean energy resource.

Since then, some observers have expressed concern that the wind farms could impact tourism in Ocean City, where the turbines would be slightly visible from the shore.

But a new study and survey show no cause for concern.

The Goucher Poll recently asked 671 Marylanders if views of the turbines would change their feelings about vacationing in Ocean City. Their findings: 75 percent of respondents said the sight would make no difference, while 12 percent answered the turbines would make them more likely to visit.

These results echo the findings of a study released by the Sage Policy Group in August. Sage looked at whether or not views of the turbines would impact tourism or home values in Ocean City, and they concluded there were no statistically significant negative impacts. Because U.S. offshore wind is so new Sage looked to European projects, some of which have been online for decades, for data.

Sage also found that for young people in particular, the presence of turbines is a plus.

“People differ with respect to their perception of these things,” said Sage’s Anirban Basu. “One of the things the research finds is that young people are much more likely to be attracted to the presence of wind turbines than people who aren’t so young. I think this creates another reason to visit Ocean City.”

That’s exactly what has happened in places that already have turbines in or near the ocean. For example, Basu cited wind turbines in Atlantic City, which are a popular tourist destination despite being next to a wastewater treatment plant. And near Block Island, Rhode Island, home to America’s first offshore wind farm, an entrepreneur is starting a helicopter company to give tourists aerial tours of the wind farm.

“These two publications reflect what was also found during the Maryland Public Service Commission’s (PSC) recent due diligence of offshore wind projects off of Ocean City,” said Paul Rich of U.S. Wind. “In their affirmative order, the PSC said it had received overwhelming public support for offshore wind, even if visible from the shore, during open public hearings, as well as, written communications regarding offshore wind in Maryland.”

Now, with tourism concerns mitigated, the projects can bring critical benefits to Maryland. The two wind farms could create 9,700 direct and indirect jobs and add $74 million to Maryland’s tax revenue over the next 20 years.

“The biggest reason why this is important right now is because Maryland has been given an almost once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become the first mover in an industry that doesn’t exist in the United States today,” said Matt Drew, a co-founder of the advocacy group Lower Shore Wind.

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