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Informing the siting of offshore renewable energy (Block Island, Rhode Island, USA)

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Exploring offshore wind energy tradeoffs.

Project summary

We explored how siting the first-in-the-nation offshore wind energy farm might impact views from along the coastline. We developed an approach for deriving visibility maps based on the location and duration of viewing by residents and visitors. We illuminated tradeoffs by comparing these visibility maps to wind energy value maps.

Block Island is a small (25 km2) island located 21 km off the coast of mainland Rhode Island. It is home to approximately 1000-year-round residents and a destination for over 30,000 people on a busy summer holiday weekend. The island is representative of many locations on the U.S. east coast and worldwide where favorable wind energy resources are located: it is close enough to potential wind farm locations such that visibility issues are a primary concern; it has a highly variable population throughout the year that is comprised of permanent residents, summer residents, and tourists; and finally, it has a high cost of energy that incentivizes locals to support wind energy projects.

We used the InVEST scenic quality and wind energy models to develop and test a method for informing future siting of offshore wind infrastructure.

Funding: The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Project Category: Sustainable Development Planning     
Project Status: Completed