This offshore wind consortium will help foster the education and training needed to equitably achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2023.

Landmark Research Plan Established for Offshore Wind & Wildlife

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The Regional Wildlife Science Collaborative for Offshore Wind (RWSC) yesterday released the first collaborative research plan to guide studies of interactions between offshore wind and wildlife on the U.S. East Coast.

“This Science Plan provides the blueprint for the region’s future work,” said Emily Shumchenia, the director of the RWSC. “It’s also a call to action to collaborate on advancing our understanding of offshore wind and marine ecosystems.”

The Integrated Science Plan for Offshore Wind, Wildlife, and Habitat in U.S. Atlantic Waters is the result of intensive work over two years among scientists and representatives from government, industry, and environmental groups that make up the unique regional collaborative. The Science Plan will result in independent and peer-reviewed science that can help protect wildlife and conserve ocean habitats while enabling states and the federal government to work toward their goals of expanding offshore wind power. Several Atlantic states are already requiring funding for regional wildlife research and collaboration with RWSC as part of their offshore wind procurements.

“This Science Plan provides the blueprint for the region’s future work,” said Emily Shumchenia, the director of the RWSC. “It’s also a call to action to collaborate on advancing our understanding of offshore wind and marine ecosystems.”

In addition to identifying data and research priorities, the plan calls for a coordinated network up and down the Atlantic coast to detect and monitor wildlife—including marine mammals, birds, bats, and sea turtles—in and around offshore wind farms. A smart coast-wide wildlife detection and monitoring network would include a listening network for whales, an in-air network to detect tagged birds and bats flying or feeding offshore, and underwater sensors that detect and document the behavior of sea turtles and large fish. The plan also recommends that data and results of all studies be shared with the public as soon as possible to provide for transparency and efficient decision-making.

“This historic research plan will help provide the science we need to ensure that offshore wind is developed in a way that protects ocean wildlife,” said Shumchenia. “We need to be able to collect and compare findings easily so that the public and policy makers can learn quickly what the regional implications are and make any needed changes.”

The Science Plan includes recommendations for data management, data collection, and data analysis activities and capacity across wildlife species and topics including marine mammals, birds, bats, sea turtles, protected fish, oceanography, seafloor habitat, and technology. These recommendations were developed by six subcommittees comprised of hundreds of experts from the U.S. federal agencies, Atlantic coast states, offshore wind companies, environmental nonprofits, and research institutions, and were refined by feedback received during a public comment period over the summer.

To facilitate this regional collaboration, RWSC will hold annual meetings beginning in the fall of 2024 to help partners align research funds to address Science Plan goals based on ongoing research, emerging data needs, new research results, and available funding. Through its recent MOU with the Center for Ocean Leadership, RWSC can assist partners in conducting research activities or by pooling funds from multiple partners to accomplish shared priorities.

RWSC will report annually on the ongoing research and findings and update the Science Plan every five years, as needed, to keep pace with new information and a rapidly evolving offshore wind industry. The subcommittees will continue to meet to share information and advance Science Plan recommendations.

To learn more, including how to participate, register for the RWSC Science Plan Release webinar on February 9, from 1-2pm ET.

Courtesy of Regional Wildlife Science Collaborative for Offshore Wind (RWSC).

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