Date of Award
Honors Thesis (Open Access)
Colby College. Environmental Studies Program
Offshore wind is an expanding form of renewable energy in the United States that will continue to grow through state and federal mandates. Offshore wind has often been met with criticism from a variety of ocean user groups and the academic literature has attempted to include the opinions of all user groups in order to improve policy making decisions. One of the biggest ocean user groups has been left out of the research, sailors. We investigated sailors’ perceptions of offshore wind in the Northeastern United States through a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews to provide context, hoping to answer the following questions: 1. What are sailors’ general attitudes towards wind farm development in Southern new England? 2. What factors are likely to influence the levels of support from sailors, and how can those negative factors be mitigated? 3. Will the negative impacts from wind farms restrict individuals from sailing in ways they could before the introduction of wind farms? During the winter of 2020-2021 we met with three subject matter experts for interviews and solicited survey responses from a random sample of sailing vessel owners in CT, RI, MA and NY. We found mixed support, but leaning in favor, for offshore wind farms from sailors. However, those that held the strongest attitudes for support or opposition tended to support wind farm development. In answering our second question, we did not find that previous experience of sailing near wind farms was a factor that increased the comfort level sailors had for sailing within one mile of a wind farm. Sailors are not likely to alter their sailing behaviors if a wind farm is developed near their home port, but those who sail with the most frequency are more likely to be negatively impacted than those who are not as dedicated to the activity. Most sailors believe that wind farms are a hazard or nuisance yet are still likely to be in favor of wind farm development. We find that sailors respond in different ways than many other ocean user groups. In Europe, fishers and boaters are more likely to feel comfortable near a wind farm if they have previous experience near a wind farm, but that was not the case in the United States. Previous experience is not a factor that determines someone’s comfort level. Additional research will be required to determine exactly what factors influence comfort and support, but overall sailors are supportive of wind farm development.
Offshore wind, sailing, social acceptance, public opinion, survey, perception, New England
Recommended CitationHarris, Henry, "Sailors’ Perceptions of Offshore Wind Energy in the Northeastern United States" (2021). Honors Theses. Paper 1325.