Lonely Planet Writer

Placing wind farms further out at sea balances impact on tourism says new survey

It is the ultimate environmental conundrum … tourists want to think their holiday is carbon neutral, but do not want to let it impact on their holiday.

A wind farm off the coast of Copenhagen, Denmark.
A wind farm off the coast of Copenhagen, Denmark. Image by CGP Grey / CC BY 2.0

A survey of visitors to one US state has discovered that while visitors support renewable energy, they most certainly do not want to see any evidence of it. A major study has found that of visitors who expressed a strong preference, just over 75% of visitors to North Carolina supported the development of wind farms.

However, when asked if they would come back to visit rental properties along the state’s coastline if their sea view featured wind turbines – 80% said they would not. Other tourists said they would want enormous price discounts, which would bring prices so low that it would no longer be a viable business for owners. “We were somewhat surprised about the strong dislike for viewing turbines from their vacation rental properties, especially given the large majority of respondents said they supported wind energy development,” said Laura Taylor of North Carolina State University.

One factor that did appear to have a major impact was the distance that the wind farm was placed away from the shore. Those surveyed were shown digitally altered photos that mocked up what the turbines would look like from a range of distances. When the turbines were placed at least eight miles from the beach, there was a group of 20% of those surveyed who said they would be happy to rent the same property at the same price. Taylor said: “In this case, even though some renters will leave the market, new ones with preferences like this group should fill their places, leaving rents unchanged overall.” The study only covered tourist rental houses along the North Carolina coast but the results are almost certain to be the same for any seaside community thinking about renewable energy options.