Klain, S., T. Satterfield, K.M.A. Chan and K. Lindberg (2020). “Octopus’s garden under the blade: Boosting biodiversity increases willingness to pay for offshore wind in the United States.” Energy Research & Social Science 69: 101744. Doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2020.101744
Low carbon energy infrastructure has been controversial for economic, social and environmental reasons: relatively high capital costs compared to fossil fuels; dissatisfaction with who owns the infrastructure; visual impacts; and habitat harm. Our research takes an initial step to assess the relative salience of these challenges with a choice experiment targeting residents of coastal New England – a US region where utility-scale offshore wind farms are under consideration. The choice experiment asks how much are residents willing to pay above their current utility rates for offshore wind farms that increase marine species abundance and diversity with artificial reefs? We assess residents’ willingness to pay (WTP) for different wind farm ownership models, and aesthetic impacts based on variation in distance from shore. Results of this exploratory study show strong preferences for wind farms that provide high quality artificial reef habitat, particularly among those who score high on the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP), a measure of environmental orientation. Results indicate WTP ranging from $17/month for people who score low on NEP to $31/month for people who score high on NEP for wind farms that generate a 60% increase in reef species diversity and abundance. We found significant preferences for cooperative, state or municipal ownership rather than private ownership. People are willing to pay ~$9/month for wind farms ≥10 miles from shore, rather than a wind farm 1 mile from shore. Our study suggests integrating biodiversity benefits into the design of renewable energy infrastructure could increase public support for such developments.