Ocean City Today

Wind farm debate matter of opinion

Aug 24, 2017



printed 08/25/2017


Let’s say Ocean City residents and businesses got half-price, or even free, electricity out of the deal. Then how would the community and its elected officials feel about the sight of dozens of wind turbines floating above the horizon?

Chances are the community and its elected officials would be clamoring for construction to start before lunch.

That scenario, however implausible it is, brings to the fore the biggest obstacle wind energy companies face in their effort to win local support for their offshore wind farm proposals: Ocean City gets nothing out of the deal.

Economists and clean energy advocates can say whatever they want about the economic boost offshore development would foster, but that means nothing to Ocean City, whose tourist-based economy is just fine.

Besides, most of the economic benefits produced by wind farm construction and operation would accrue on the mainland — West Ocean City, Berlin and points west — which is not Ocean City’s concern.

Meanwhile, as other areas reap the rewards, Ocean City’s tourist and real estate economy would be on the front lines.

That’s the other problem attached to the wind farms proposal: the degree of risk, if any, is unknown. Experts can opine and ordinary people can speculate, but no one can point to another project within sight of a coastal resort like Ocean City and say, “This is what happened there.”

As a research paper published three years ago in the Scottish Geographical Journal says, the belief that conflict exists between tourism and offshore development drives the discussion. Whether that conflict is real is another matter because of the limited number of opportunities to study actual cases.

More likely than not, the advantages and disadvantages of wind farms within sight of the beach are less than the debate makes them out to be. It’s unlikely that tourists will stay away or that real estate prices will tumble or that the local mainland economies will experience an economic bonanza.

Even so, no one can blame local officials for being seriously concerned or for advocates to be overly optimistic. In the absence of talking points in this discussion, everything is a matter of opinion.


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