The National Wildlife Federation believes that offshore wind energy must be located, constructed, and operated in a way that does not threaten our coastal and marine wildlife.
These are the ways in which we believe that can be accomplished:
Avoid sensitive areas: Turbines should be placed in areas that are able to withstand their construction and long-term existence.
Minimize remaining impacts: By using scientifically-derived standards and practices (such as lighting choices) some negative impacts to wildlife can be avoided
Utilize best management practices and mitigation strategies: These can help deter wildlife interaction and negative impacts on wildlife.
Utilize technology: The best available technology can minimize risk of vessel collisions and acoustical impacts on wildlife during the construction phase.
Collect data: Establishing comprehensive monitoring and data collection standards facilitates an adaptive management approach to projects and supports project improvements.
Technological advancements now allow offshore wind farms to be located farther offshore. This greatly reduces potential conflicts with wildlife, shoreline view sheds and competing ocean uses like shipping and fishing.
Under President Obama’s Executive Order on ocean policy, a new legal framework was established for coastal and marine spatial planning, one that calls for an unprecedented degree of collaboration among federal and state agencies. This is a crucial opportunity for coordination of wind energy development with the many other uses of coastal and marine resources. Federal and state government agencies participating in this planning framework should work collaboratively with other key stakeholders fill data gaps and guide offshore wind development in a manner that protects key interests including fish and wildlife resources.
In the last few years we’ve seen huge progress towards ensuring wildlife-friendly offshore wind power can be harnessed off the Atlantic coast. Here's what's in progress:
Task Forces: To address wildlife issues, state/federal task forces have formed in many eastern states. Task forces, stakeholder groups, and the federal wildlife agencies bring their best data to the table to guide the federal permitting process.
“Smart from the Start”: The result was a new “Smart from the Start” vision for offshore wind, in which six identified "Wind Energy Areas" with strong wind and minimal environmental and user conflicts were identified. These areas meet many of the preliminary criteria we laid out above for avoiding impact, including starting 8 to 15 miles offshore.
National Ocean Council: The Obama Administration’s National Ocean Council started developing coastal and marine spatial plans, which will help drive millions of dollars in federal research on ocean wildlife.
Leasing Wind Energy Areas: The lead federal agency undertook an Environmental Assessment of the impact of leasing the identified Wind Energy Areas for companies to conduct biological surveys of the wind and ocean conditions. Once these project-specific construction and operation plans are submitted, BOEM has committed to undertaking a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
But, with more work to be done, we’re beginning to convene marine wildlife experts, NGOs, research institutions, the wind industry and regulators in a forum to flesh out additional needed protective actions. After some site-specific data is collected, we’ll see what kind of guidelines might be needed to avoid and minimize impacts to wildlife that far offshore and make sure those guidelines are put in place before construction begins.
Atlantic offshore wind energy development is on the right track. We’re optimistic that with your help and with more work, we will be able to get behind offshore wind as truly "wildlife-friendly."
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