Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Maxwell T. Boykoff

Second Advisor

Suzanne Tegen

Third Advisor

Lisa Dilling

Fourth Advisor

Amanda Carrico

Fifth Advisor

Paul Komor


The U.S. has one 30-megawatt (MW), demonstration-scale wind farm installed off the coast of Rhode Island, to date. This is despite widespread efforts for more than ten years, from the local to the federal level, to develop wind farms off the coast of the U.S. In contrast, Europe has more than 15,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind capacity from 92 offshore wind farms installed in the North, Irish, and Baltic Seas and Atlantic Ocean, as of the end of 2017 (Wind Europe, 2018). Using the policy-sciences frameworks, I mapped state and municipal contextual conditions, including policy participants, and their beliefs, values, resources, and strategies for affecting offshore wind development. A case-study comparison of contextual conditions relevant to offshore wind development in Rhode Island and New Jersey formed the basis of my work. I selected these case studies because of the initial offshore wind planning timelines and similar design parameters of the offshore wind farms proposed in each state, but contrasting outcomes. The 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF), located off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island, proposed in 2008, went forward; whereas the 24-MW Fishermen’s Energy Atlantic City Wind Farm (FACW), proposed for the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey in 2008 did not go forward. Obviating time and some technological and siting parameters as the reasons for why one offshore wind farm went forward and the other did not, allows for a focus on how state and municipal policy participants, their beliefs and values, resources and strategies, and other contextual conditions affected outcomes for the BIWF and FACW. Empirically-derived evidence from stakeholder documents, observations, and interviews reveals that decision makers and decision processes that incorporate substantial planning and economic, or market support mechanisms for proposed offshore wind projects may advance implementation of proposed offshore wind projects and a state’s goals for offshore wind energy. In contrast, decision makers and a decision process that primarily advocate for developer responsibility and economic self-sufficiency conflict with the high up front capital costs associated with offshore wind development and state objectives for offshore wind energy. This research also found that state institutional structure with the appropriate expertise, resources, and community trust is important for managing offshore wind planning and regulatory efforts, and ensuring that proposed offshore wind projects avoid, or mitigate impacts on human and environmental communities. Based on findings, this dissertation concludes that a state’s institutional structure, and state and municipal decision makers’ values, perspectives, resources, and strategies, including decision processes, are primary drivers of offshore wind development outcomes in the U.S., as opposed to other contextual factors, like public opinion levels, a state’s geography, or market conditions.