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Assessing Social Values Relative to Offshore Wind Energy Areas in the Gulf of Mexico

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is in the process of auctioning wind energy leases in the Gulf of Mexico. To inform this process and future wind development activities, NCCOS will assess the values, expectations, and preferences of coastal residents in the region to characterize the complex interactions between society, the environment, and energy development projects.

Why We Care
Outside of official public engagement forums, access to the public’s preferences about offshore wind energy development remains limited. This research offers an approach for understanding what is broadly important to coastal communities in regions that may host offshore wind energy generation. Additionally, the research offers insight into how differing values and perceptions across communities can influence local receptiveness to proposed development and social action to influence process outcomes. This type of information helps government agencies and developers better understand, integrate, and respond to the values, expectations, preferences, and regional needs of coastal communities affected by wind energy development.

What We Are Doing
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) oversees the development of renewable energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf. In response to BOEM’s interest, we are studying the values, expectations, and perceptions of coastal residents of the Gulf of Mexico region regarding offshore wind energy development in Texas and Louisiana. More specifically, we are investigating the importance of potentially affected aspects of coastal living that could be important to people for having a good quality of life in the region, such as ocean views and affordable electricity. Finally, we are looking at the influence of residents’ expectation of impacts to those quality of life factors on their support or opposition to proposed offshore wind energy development in their region. We will identify factors that predict residents’ 1) support level for offshore wind energy and 2) intention to engage in social action to advance their position.

This study is focused on the Gulf of Mexico region, inclusive of 39 shoreline counties in Texas and Louisiana. Within this study area, researchers will conduct a series of focus groups and later administer a survey of randomly sampled households. Respondents will answer a series of questions; the answers to these questions will be used to characterize the social landscape regarding offshore wind energy development for the study region.

NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) is conducting this research in collaboration with NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Sciences Center, NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Map showing location of Wind Energy Area lease blocks off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.

Gulf of Mexico Wind Energy Area lease blocks. Credit: BOEM.

What We Found
This project started in the fall of 2023 and will conclude in the fall of 2026. The team has conducted similar work in other regions — please follow this link for our work in Oregon and this link for our work in the Carolinas.

Benefits of Our Work
Foremost, this study will provide NOAA and BOEM with an enhanced understanding of the relationship between key quality of life factors (along with expected impacts to those factors) and how likely people are to take social action to support or oppose offshore wind energy development projects. These quality of life factors include aspects of coastal life important to the mission of NOAA, including commercial and recreational fisheries, protected species, along with coastal habitats.

Next Steps
Researchers anticipate that focus groups will take place in June 2024, and the survey is currently planned for the summer of 2025.

Additional Resources

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