Wind farm an unlikely tourist attraction

The nation’s first offshore wind farm on Block Island celebrated its one-year anniversary this week. And tourism on the Island is up…because of the wind turbines.

Opponents of wind energy projects sometimes worry about how wind turbines will affect the ocean’s view, making a trip to the water less appealing for people. But since the wind farm went online last year, Block Island’s Tourism Council says the turbines have actually attracted more people.

Jessica Willi, the council’s executive director, says, “We’ve definitely seen more people on the Island that have come just to see the wind farm, we’ve had businesses sprout up on the Island, boats taking people out just to see the wind farm.”

Willi’s husband, Chris, works in the charter boat industry. He says the wind farm has also helped enhance the recreational fishing experience.

“You can’t always rely on mother nature. As we all know, sometimes the fishing stinks and now you can just say, ‘Alright let’s go look at this engineering marvel three miles from the Island.’”

But Jessica Willi says although tourism has gone up, offshore wind energy companies should consider tourism more often and earlier in their development process.

This report comes from the New England News Collaborative, eight public media companies coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.