NYSERDA Keeps an Eye on Wildlife Offshore Long Island

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has completed the first two phases of a digital aerial survey of offshore wildlife off the Long Island coast. The survey is part of New York's plan to advance the development of offshore wind along the state's coastline.

Photo: NYSERDA
Photo: NYSERDA

Regional-scale baseline information on seasonal wildlife distribution, abundance and movement will inform the biodiversity of development sites and contribute to responsible offshore wind site selection and development. The survey will also provide a better understanding of the potential effects of individual offshore wind projects, as well as any possible cumulative effects of multiple projects. The project is expected to expedite offshore wind development, decreasing uncertainty and reducing costs for developers while minimizing wildlife impacts and maximizing environmental benefits.

The second seasonal survey was completed in November. Combined with the earlier summer survey, more than 800,000 images have been captured including birds, whales, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles and fish. The seasonal surveys that began in August 2016 are being conducted four times a year for three years using the latest digital and sensor technology. Surveys also map fish shoals and boat traffic. When the project is completed, it will capture almost 4 million ultrahigh resolution images.

The resulting survey data will be public and shared with multiple entities, including state and federal agencies tasked with mapping and modeling wildlife distributions in the Atlantic Bight, as well as developers and regulators undertaking offshore wind site assessments.

John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA, said: "Under Governor Cuomo, New York State is committed to developing offshore wind with the least impact on the coastal environment and local wildlife. The aerial survey will ensure the responsible development of offshore wind, reduce costs and uncertainty for offshore wind developers, and bring forward the benefits of this plentiful and clean resource for all New Yorkers."

The survey represents an element of New York's ongoing offshore wind strategy, which also includes the New York State Offshore Wind Blueprint released in September, and the State's participation in the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) auction on December 15. The Governor recently announced NYSERDA has been selected by the federal government to compete for the right to develop a commercial offshore wind energy lease off the Long Island coast.

By participating in the lease auction, the State will seek to ensure offshore wind in New York is developed at the lowest possible cost for electricity consumers while protecting the environment, NYSERDA said.

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