Uncertainty and The Impacts of Offshore Wind
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In November 2010, the Obama Administration announced plans to streamline the process for permitting offshore wind farms on the Atlantic Coast. Despite the prevalence of offshore wind farms in places such as Europe, offshore wind remains an untested commercial technology in the United States that holds a variety of impacts for human communities and the coastal environment. My research examines the potential impacts of the Cape Wind Project located on the Southeast Coast of Cape Cod to the region’s economy, aesthetics, marine mammals and sea birds. Utilizing an uncertainty analysis, this project examines any gaps in knowledge and works to uncover the perceptions stakeholders located on Cape Cod and national offshore wind energy experts have of the project’s impacts. This study confirms that wind energy professionals and stakeholders possess differing degrees of knowledge and form their opinions differently. Perhaps of more interest, though, is the finding that in many cases the individual experts and the members of both groups agreed on their answers. In particular, our two groups agreed about the level of impact to sea birds, the importance of impacts to marine mammals, the fact the project would alter perceptions of the region (albeit for different reasons), and the potential for the project to generate economic growth. However, differences between the two groups existed on what type of aesthetic impact the project might have, the overall economic impacts of the project to the Cape Cod region, the impacts to tourism, whether or not the process in approving Cape Wind was inclusive, and the types of marine mammals and which behaviors would be impacted. These answers indicate that further research work needs to be done on the impacts of offshore wind energy to the human community’s sense of aesthetic and into how offshore wind can alter local and regional economies. It appears such findings either have not been communicated or are simple not understood by the either group of experts, and that further work in understanding and communicating them could make siting offshore wind farms far easier.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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