Tracey M. Dalton

Department of Marine Affairs, College of the Environment and Life Sciences




The Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) is the first offshore wind farm in the United States. The BIWF consists of five turbines located a few miles southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island. While the wind farm advances state and federal goals to increase renewable energy development, there is limited understanding of the potential impacts of these wind farms on people and the marine environment.  In collaboration with RI DEM, we are conducting two projects to fill this knowledge gap by examining the ecological and social impacts of the BIWF on resource users.

Project #1:  How are recreational boaters affected by the Block Island Wind Farm? 

This study uses a combined mail and on-line survey to assess how the Block Island Wind Farm, and potentially other off-shore wind farm projects, impact recreational boaters in RI. RI boaters will be randomly selected to participate in the survey.  The survey will ask boaters about their use of RI’s waters, their preferences for different types of boating trips, and their views of the BIWF.

Project #2:  How are ecological changes from the Block Island Wind Farm affecting fishermen?

In this study, face-to-face interviews will be conducted with commercial and recreational fishermen to better understand how users of the area surrounding the BIWF think about and respond to potential wind farm impacts. In addition to conducting interviews, staff at the RI DEM Division of Fish and Wildlife will analyze lobster and fish data to determine if any ecological changes occurred as the result of wind farm construction or operation.  Interview insight will then be compared to the ecological data findings.

Findings will be presented at two workshops, one on Block Island and the other in Narragansett, where members of the public will have an opportunity to ask questions and provide their own observations to the project team.

Expected Benefits

This work presents a unique opportunity to characterize changes to the local environment caused by the BIWF and to evaluate how marine resource users will likely respond to these changes. Our findings will provide insights for stakeholders on how recreational boaters, including recreational fishermen, will likely respond to the BIWF, and other potential wind farm sites. Coastal activities are central to RI’s cultural landscape and may be affected by offshore wind projects. Understanding how users may respond to changes in the marine environment and human use of the environment is crucial to forming a complete picture of how current and future wind projects may affect Rhode Islanders.

The BIWF is the nation’s first offshore wind farm and researchers from many disciplines are studying multiple aspects related to the social and physical impacts of the offshore wind farm.  These are just two of many studies that are currently being conducted on the BIWF.

Project Team

The project team includes faculty and student researchers from URI and a staff biologist from the RI Department of Environmental Management. The partnership provides a unique opportunity for collaboration among researchers from different disciplines including marine policy, ecology, natural resource economics, and planning.



What can you do?

  • If you receive a survey in the mail, please fill it out and send it back as soon as possible.
  • If you have fished in and around the BIWF site in the past and want to talk with the project team about your experiences, call or email us.
  • Attend one of our public workshops to learn more about the ecological effects of the BIWF and ask questions (Dates TBD)
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