Valuation of ecological and amenity impacts of an offshore windfarm as a factor in marine planning
Integrated marine planning, which must take into consideration environmental and social impacts, is being introduced widely in Europe, the USA, Australia and elsewhere. Installation of offshore windfarms creates impacts both on local marine ecosystems and the view of the seascape and is one of multiple activities in the marine area that must be addressed by marine planning. The impacts on people's values (and hence welfare) of changes in ecology and amenity that could arise from the installation of a windfarm in the Irish Sea were assessed using a discrete choice experiment administered through an online survey. The ecological changes investigated were: increased species diversity resulting from artificial reef effects, and the effect of electromagnetic fields from subsea cables on marine life; whilst the amenity change was the visibility of offshore turbines from land. Respondents expressed preferences for ecological improvements but had less clear preferences regarding the height and visibility of the turbines. In particular distance decay effects were observed with respondents further away from the coast being less concerned about visual impact created by offshore turbines. Understanding ecological and amenity impacts and how they are valued by people can support the decisions made within marine planning and licensing.