Offshore renewable energy, including offshore wind, tidal and wave energy, has sometimes been represented as opposition-free alternatives to controversial technologies such as onshore wind turbines, and has received increasing attention from social scientists in recent years. A fragmented literature has emerged investigating public engagement with these technologies and the determinants of public acceptance, comprising 59 key studies—the majority investigating offshore wind energy (59%). This literature review argues that while the ways in which public actors engage with offshore renewable energy are to some extent similar to onshore energy infrastructure, there are also important differences. These include the generally lower levels of public knowledge about the technologies, a changing role for visual impacts, a fundamentally different, marine, spatial context, and different sets of stakeholders in different decision-making arenas. There is a need to explore as yet unasked and unanswered questions—going beyond ‘established’ variables identified in the onshore wind-based ‘beyond NIMBY’ literature—especially regarding the role of the marine location of these technologies, and the cross-technology and cross-disciplinary applicability of findings. In order to more fully understand public responses to energy infrastructures, future research needs to move beyond case studies of onshore wind developments, adopting more diverse and ambitious research designs and methodologies.

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Conflict of interest: The authors have declared no conflicts of interest for this article.