New URI Study to Look at Impacts of Block Island Wind Farm on Recreation & Tourism

BOEM Contracts URI for New Project to Identify Impacts of Offshore Wind Farm 
Analysis Focusing on Effects of Block Island Wind Farm on Rhode Island Recreation and Tourism Activities

NARRAGANSETT, RHODE ISLAND: In Rhode Island state ocean waters, the nation’s first windfarm, southeast of Block Island, is operational and generating power. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has contracted the University of Rhode Island (URI) to document the effects of the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF)on recreation and tourism in Rhode Island.

This information will be used to then create socioeconomic indicators to help regulators, industry, communities, and researchers measure the impacts of offshore renewable energy facilities, such as wind farms, on recreation and tourism activities in Rhode Island as well as potentially other places in the country.  This two-year social science project is underway to both develop the indicators and engage the local community in the process. 

“This project will build upon BOEM’s completed and ongoing studies seeking to characterize the effects of offshore wind on recreation and tourism activities,” said Amy Stillings a BOEM Industry Economist from the Office of Renewable Energy Programs

The project is expected to yield: (a) the first available empirical data on the effects of a U.S. offshore wind farm on coastal recreation and tourism; (b) a suite of indicators that can be used to assess the potential effects of future offshore wind energy projects throughout the U.S.; and (c) a recommended subset of indicators that can be used to monitor the effects of the wind farm on Rhode Island’s recreation and tourism activities moving forward.

These three products will help BOEM plan for the installation and management of future offshore wind energy projects in federal waters. “URI is pleased to be providing BOEM with a technical approach to document the effects of the Block Island Wind Farm on recreation and tourism in the Rhode Island region,” said Jennifer McCann, URI Coastal Resources Center (CRC) U.S Coastal Programs Director and Rhode Island Sea Grant (Sea Grant) Extension Director.

An interdisciplinary group of URI social scientists and coastal management practitioners, including  David Bidwell and Amelia Moore from the Department of Marine Affairs, the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, Hollie Smith from the Harrington School of Communication and Media, and Jennifer McCann and Tiffany Smythe from CRC and Sea Grant, both at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, will provide BOEM with a technical approach to document the effects of the Block Island Wind Farm on recreation and tourism in the Rhode Island region.

For this BOEM project, an advisory committee, made up of local industry and community representatives, regulators, and social scientists, ensures that the indicators are both rigorous and realistic, and respond to the needs and issues of communities and stakeholders.  “The Block Island community looks forward to having a greater understanding about how the wind farm interacts with island tourism and recreation as it is very important to the people who live here and earn livings from these industries,” said Jessica Willi, Executive Director for the Block Island Tourism Council.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is charged with managing the development of U.S. Outer Continental Shelf energy and mineral resources in an environmentally and economically responsible way.

The University of Rhode Island is supporting this BOEM project through the work of the Coastal Resources Center, which is dedicated to advancing coastal management worldwide; Rhode Island Sea Grant, one of 33 programs in the National Sea Grant college network working to enhance long-term economic development and responsible use of coastal and marine resources; the Department of Marine Affairs, which, within the URI College of Environment and Life Sciences, provides leadership in the management of marine and coastal environments; and the Harrington School of Communication and Media, which, within the URI College of Arts & Sciences, fosters effective communication through the building of knowledge, skills and leadership abilities.