NYSERDA’s Wildlife Study Offshore New York Halfway Done

Illustration: NYSERDA/ archive

APEM has completed the sixth digital aerial survey carried out as part of a three-year study involving twelve such surveys of offshore wildlife off New York’s Atlantic Coast. The campaign has been commissioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and is being performed by Normandeau Associates and APEM.

According to NYSERDA, APEM has completed analysis of the sixth survey and thus marked the halfway point of the three-year project, which comprises a total of twelve ultra-high resolution surveys conducted off the coast of New York that will support the development of the state’s offshore wind resource.

Halfway through the survey – which NYSERDA says is the world’s largest and most detailed digital aerial survey of offshore marine and bird life – more than two million ultra-high resolution images of birds, sharks, sea turtles, fish and marine mammals have been captured, including two blue whales and six North Atlantic right whales. Tens of thousands of birds have been identified, including shearwaters, double-crested cormorants, petrels, gulls, terns and bald eagles. Hundreds of sharks and whales have also been recorded, as well as more than five thousand dolphins.

NYSERDA stated that interesting spatial patterns were already emerging from the data collected so far.

The research covers the New York Offshore Planning Area (OPA) – about 16,000 square miles of the New York Bight – identified by NYSERDA as an area of interest for potential development of offshore renewable energy projects. Data collected in the first year of the project helped support New York State’s effort to identify the area recommended to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) for consideration for siting new wind energy areas. The area recommended presents the greatest opportunity for cost-effective development, while also presenting the least conflict to ocean users, including wildlife.

The data from the first two years is now being used by BOEM in their own assessment, enhancing the understanding of seasonal wildlife distribution, NYSERDA said.

The offshore wildlife study will help advance New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s clean energy strategy that includes developing 2.4GW of offshore wind, as well as support his State of the State commitment that New York is to issue two solicitations in 2018 and 2019 to secure a combined total of at least 800MW of offshore wind power, according to NYSERDA.

Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA said: “Collecting this data is crucial in the state’s effort to provide regulators and offshore wind developers with new scientific data they can use to help avoid the areas that support the richest diversity of marine life. The aerial survey is one of the more than 20 robust studies the state has undertaken to demonstrate carrying out Governor Cuomo’s pledge that the offshore wind resource will be developed in an environmentally responsible manner.”

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