The US Department of Energy (DOE) is funding four projects with USD 13.5 million to obtain critical environmental and wildlife data to support offshore wind development. The projects will inform offshore wind siting and permitting, and help protect wildlife and fisheries as offshore wind deployment increases under the country’s target of installing 30 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030.
Two of the selected projects will support wildlife and fisheries monitoring efforts on the East Coast, while two are focused on preparing the West Coast for floating offshore wind development by collecting wildlife distribution data and developing tools to monitor the environmental effects of floating offshore wind energy.
On the East Coast, Duke University and team, awarded USD 7.5 million, will assess the risk that offshore wind development may pose to birds, bats, and marine mammals; prioritise wildlife monitoring needs; and collect biological and behavioral data at offshore wind farms. Coonamessett Farm Foundation and partners, who were awarded USD 3.3 million, will survey changes in commercial fish and marine invertebrate populations and seafloor habitats at an offshore wind development site also on the US Atlantic coast.
Oregon State University has won USD 2 million to conduct visual surveys and acoustic monitoring of marine mammals and seabirds to develop predictive density maps of species present in potential wind energy development areas on the West Coast, while Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will develop next‐generation autonomous robotic technology for environmental monitoring of marine organisms and the seafloor in the same region under a USD 750,000 grant.
The projects are jointly funded by DOE and the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), with the opportunity developed under the National Oceanographic Partnership Program in coordination with BOEM, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service, the California Energy Commission, and the California Ocean Protection Council.
Increased deployment of offshore wind means more clean energy on the grid, which can contribute significantly to the Biden Administration’s goals of 100 per cent carbon-free electricity by 2035 and a net-zero emission economy by 2050. While wind energy will provide significant national economic and environmental benefits, its development and operation may have impacts on the environment and wildlife that need to be assessed, DOE states.
“This partnership illustrates the Administration’s all-of-government approach to achieve our ambitious clean energy goals, including deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030″, said the Department of the Interior’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Laura Daniel-Davis. “We are committed to working with our federal partners to ensure that we have the best available science to inform future decisions to help reduce impacts to marine life and other ocean users”.
The US has set an offshore wind target of 30 GW by 2030 and is accelerating offshore wind development to meet the target, with BOEM speeding up the permitting processes since the beginning of this year.
Earlier this year, BOEM completed its review of a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for Vineyard Wind 1, the country’s first large-scale offshore wind farm to be approved, and is currently reviewing nine additional COPs with plans to complete the review of at least another six by 2025, for a total of at least 16 projects representing more than 19 GW of clean energy.
The Department of the Interior has also just revealed that it plans for BOEM to hold up to seven new offshore wind lease sales by 2025 for Wind Energy Areas in the Gulf of Maine, New York Bight, Central Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico, as well as offshore the Carolinas, California, and Oregon.