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Research Spotlight: Offshore Wind Energy

The Odum Institute Contributes to Federal Public Opinion Survey on Offshore Wind Energy off the Carolina Coast led by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.
By: Alana Edwards

Researchers with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) seek to understand how social factors affect residents’ support or opposition for offshore wind energy development, as well as what factors influence one’s intention to take action to advance their support position. This project is unique in its focus on the importance of place-based attachment and social values for motivating residents to engage in activities related to local offshore wind energy projects. The research addresses gaps in information concerning the perceived effect of offshore wind energy development on coastal communities.

About the Project

Sampling Map
The final sampling geography of the project. Credit: NOAA, NCCOS

The study examined included portions of four counties in NC (Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender) and one county in SC (Horry). The Carolina coast was selected because the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) identified three areas off North Carolina’s coast for potential wind energy development: Kitty Hawk, Wilmington West and Wilmington East. Additionally, four locations are being considered off the coast of South Carolina: Grand Strand, Cape Romain, Charleston, and Winyah.

The principal investigator for the project is Theresa Goedeke, Ph.D, of NCCOS.

“There are people [living on the Carolina coast] who may experience some impact, and so have their own preference or perspective about how wind energy development should be achieved. Unless information is collected in a systematic way, their voices may not be heard,” Goedeke says. “This study, to me, is a really nice way to get that information into the hands of decision-makers so that they can make more informed decisions based on larger societal needs.


For NCCOS, Odum randomly selected households in the designated coastal region to participate in a mail survey, which collected data on support for offshore wind energy through a social science lens. The questions were designed to gather information on residents’ perceptions, beliefs, values and activities related to the Carolina coast and offshore wind energy.

Under the leadership of Assistant Director for Survey Research, Teresa Edwards, the Odum Institute’s research group collected and compiled the data through a mailout-mailback survey. Edwards and other Odum staff assisted with survey development and weighting. Data collection concluded in May 2018 and NCCOS will deliver the survey findings to BOEM in early 2019.

Broader Impacts

The assessment will enrich BOEM and NOAA’s understanding of the likelihood of community engagement in social action to support or oppose renewable energy products, including offshore wind energy.

The social sciences may not seem connected to wind energy; however, this study contextualizes natural science data. Effective natural resource management requires consideration of both environmental and societal factors. Because the survey provides insight into the human impact and social dynamics of offshore wind energy development, its findings may inform key environmental and energy policy decisions.

You can’t manage a system or a species or anything unless you understand the social dynamics, the human dynamics, how we’re interacting with those resources, and how we behave around them,” Theresa Goedeke says. “[The social sciences are] actually a vital complement to the natural sciences, especially when you’re looking at an applied context like we are.”

Information on the project is available on the NCCOS website.

For additional questions about the study, contact Theresa Goedeke, NOAA NCCOS at [<a href=””]].

For information on the Odum Institute’s survey data collection services, visit the survey research section of our website.

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