South Fork Wind, a joint venture offshore wind project developed by Ørsted and Eversource, has signed an agreement with environmental organizations to further enhance measures designed to protect the North Atlantic right whale during the construction and operation of the offshore wind farm.
The agreement with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) expands on commitments from Ørsted and Eversource to responsibly build clean energy projects while minimizing and mitigating impacts to marine wildlife and critical habitat.
“In order to address the climate crisis, we need the offshore wind industry to grow and thrive,” said Alison Chase, a senior policy analyst at NRDC. “Measures like these by South Fork Wind to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts on the North Atlantic right whale are key to ensuring offshore wind development is done in a smart way that protects our valuable and vulnerable wildlife. We don’t need to choose between clean energy development and wildlife protection, and this agreement shows how we can do both.”
North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered whales on the planet and scientists estimate that fewer than 340 remain. South Fork Wind has committed to measures that will help protect these whales in the project area, where their habitat is increasingly threatened by climate change.
South Fork Wind will adopt a suite of monitoring measures to help ensure right whales are not in close proximity to the construction site during construction activities, implement mitigation to reduce noise during piling, and evaluate other new monitoring technologies as part of the agreement. To guard against vessel strikes, the agreement also includes a 10-knot speed limit for all project-related vessels unless an effective adaptive speed management plan is in place.
In addition to these mitigation measures, South Fork Wind will test advanced technologies that detect and have the potential to track whales, including thermal cameras, acoustic sensors and data integration software. With an added scientific understanding of North Atlantic right whale movements in response to factors like climate change, South Fork Wind will be equipped to adapt mitigation measures in response to evolving science.
South Fork Wind will be a pilot program for these provisions, and the companies may use them in future projects.
“As the world’s most sustainable energy company, we’re proud to be developing a project that helps address the climate threat by producing green electrons and doing so in a responsible way,” said Rob Mastria, project development director of South Fork Wind for Ørsted. “This agreement enhances our existing ability to protect marine life based on 30 years of experience building and operating offshore wind farms, while trialing new technologies that will further strengthen our ability to both combat the threat of climate change and build projects that coexist with our eco-system.”
The NWF, NRDC and CLF are aiming to establish protections for vulnerable marine life and habitat in the expanding offshore wind market. North Atlantic right whales face threats from entanglement in fishing gear and vessel collisions, and shifting prey and habitat availability due to climate change.
“Responsibly developed offshore wind power is a vital component of our transition to a clean energy economy. To help build an energy future that prioritizes the health and well-being of wildlife and communities alike, America’s pursuit of this critical climate solution must be guided by robust stakeholder input and scientific integrity,” said Amber Hewett, offshore wind program director at the National Wildlife Federation. “This agreement is a huge win for wildlife and we are so proud to work with our partners to protect species like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale as offshore wind energy continues to build momentum in the United States.”
South Fork Wind is New York State’s first offshore wind farm. The project is located 35 miles east of Long Island and its 12 turbines will generate approximately 130 MW of power — enough to power approximately 70,000 homes. The project broke ground in January 2022 and is expected to be operational in late 2023.
News item from NRDC
Filed Under: News, Offshore wind, Projects