Energy Updates

Feds Drop University of Delaware Offshore Wind Study

UD Authors admitted there would be negative impacts on tourism and property values would fall.

By David T. Stevenson, Director

Center for Energy & Environmental Policy



NEWARK, DE (April 6, 2023) - The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior and is responsible for approving offshore wind projects. The University of Delaware (UD) was paid $350,000 to conduct an Offshore Wind Study, which BOEM previously always quoted in their Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).


However, this changed last November of 2022, when BOEM did not quote the UD Study in two of its most recent Draft EIS's for the Empire Wind and the Coastal Virginia projects. BOEM also provided no supporting evidence to conclude that "there would be no economic damage to beach communities."


What Changed?


On September 27, 2022, the Rehoboth Beach City Council convened a seminar on offshore wind to hear opposing views on the impacts of wind projects off the Delaware coast. Attending the conference were the top four individuals who run BOEM. 


During the conference, there was a lively debate about the UD Study. The discussion points were all from the Study:


  • The wind turbines shown in the UD Study were only 579 feet tall compared to the actual size that will be used in future projects which is at least 851 feet tall.
  • 35% of survey respondents were not beachgoers.
  • Survey respondents, who said the view would be worse, were asked: “How certain they were?” Their responses were adjusted downward for any uncertainty.
  • Survey respondents who said the view would be better were NOT asked any follow-up questions.
  • The UD study showed nighttime views to respondents, but did not report the results. Other studies have shown nighttime visualizations and the opposition increased dramatically compared to daytime views.
  • The UD Study says property values would fall, but no details were provided.
  • In March 2021, one of the two UD Study’s authors stated publicly the Study was no longer useful because of the increased height of the planned turbines.

During the seminar, rather than defend their UD Study, the authors offered "new studies" conducted by others they claimed supported their UD Study's conclusion. At the very end of the recorded debate, the UD Study's authors admitted there would be negative impacts on tourism and property values would fall, but provided no estimates. One might conclude BOEM's decision to stop using the UD Study was the outcome of this debate.


BOEM needs to conduct a new study before issuing any more EIS documents. UD should be disqualified from conducting the new Study.


BOEM Contradicting Words in its EIS Documents:  Major vs. Negligible


One of the topics in the EIS is to determine the "impact" of visible turbines on beach economies. BOEM routinely admits the "impact" is major and often summarizes this:


"The daytime presence of offshore turbines, as well as turbine nighttime lighting, would change perception of ocean scenes from natural and undeveloped to a developed wind energy environment. In clear weather, the turbines would be an unavoidable presence and dominate views from the coastline" BOEM anticipates that the overall impacts associated with the Proposed Action when combined with the impacts from ongoing and planned activities including other offshore wind development would be major."


However, despite their summary, BOEM stated the economic impact would be negligible in the Draft EIS for the Ocean Wind 1 project, published on June 24, 2022.