Bay State Wind, the joint venture between two offshore wind farms in the northeast of the United States has announced this week that it will commit to providing over $2 million in grants for research and programs aimed at protecting the region’s fisheries and whale populations.
One of the big and frequently raised concerns when developing offshore wind farms is the potential environmental impact, especially on native aquatic wildlife. Most every offshore wind farm is preceded by extensive environmental assessment and approval. It is unsurprising, therefore, that Bay State Wind — the joint venture created by global offshore wind leader Ørsted and New England’s foremost transmission builder Eversource — have committed to addressing concerns surrounding the development of its lease area situated off the coast of Massachusetts and Connecticut (see right).
This is one of several recent developments made by Bay State Wind in recent weeks aimed at developing the 800 megawatt (MW) Bay State Wind offshore wind farm, as well as the smaller 200 MW Constitution Wind project — the former of which will supply clean electricity to the state of Massachusetts, and the latter to Connecticut.
This latest announcement from Bay State Wind commits at least $1 million for a Bay State Wind Marine Science Grant Program for directed fisheries resources research on the Bay State Wind lease area, focusing specifically on addressing specific issues that have been raised by the local fishing industry. Woods Hole Oceanography Institute will also receive a $500,000 multi-year grant for the development of advanced whale detection systems, while the New England Aquarium Right Whale Research Project and the Lobster Foundation of Massachusetts will each receive $250,000 to prevent gear entanglement of the North Atlantic Right Whale.
“These grants demonstrate Bay State Wind’s commitment to environmental responsibility,” said whale biologist Laura Morse, environmental manager for Bay State Wind. “We are taking steps to strengthen the population of the North Atlantic Right Whale, which is weakened by boat strikes and fishing gear entanglements. In addition, Bay State Wind will address two of the main threats to marine life — rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification — with the clean energy that its wind farms will produce.”
The move by Bay State Wind to prioritize environmental concerns straight from their checkbook highlights the importance of addressing local concerns and issues before construction begins, so as to involve the unconvinced in the process rather than to exclude them and dismiss their concerns as inconsequential. This is particularly the case in naturally sensitive areas such as off the coast of New England, which are home to sensitive ecosystems.
“I am pleased that Bay State Wind is seeking to use near real-time passive acoustic monitoring to help mitigate the effects of construction activity on the seriously endangered North Atlantic right whale,” said Mark Baumgartner, Associate Scientist of the Biology Department at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “WHOI’s state-of-the-art technology, when used together with other monitoring approaches, can help alert Bay State Wind and other wind energy developers of the whales’ presence so that the developers can take precautions to mitigate ship strikes and noise exposure to the whales.”
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