Vineyard Wind announced that it is seeking proposals from universities, technology companies, and other innovators for implementation of advanced Passive Acoustic Monitoring Systems (PAMS), which would be deployed alongside transit routes to the offshore wind area located off the coast of Massachusetts.
This initiative is part of a broader effort to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale during construction and operations of America’s first large-scale offshore wind energy facility. It is also the direct result of a historic agreement to protect the Right Whale entered into earlier this year between Vineyard Wind, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the National Wildlife Federation.
“Vineyard Wind has two goals with this initiative: First, to ensure best protections for the Right Whale as we go to build and operate the nation’s first commercial scale offshore wind farm,” said Erich Stephens, Chief Development Officer for Vineyard Wind. “Our second goal, which is equally important, is to help place the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry on track to deliver the substantial volume of clean, competitive cost energy that our nation needs while expanding protections for this highly endangered whale.”
Vineyard Wind is seeking technology firms or academic institutions to provide and operationalize enhanced acoustic monitoring systems that will detect the presence of Right Whales, and transmit information in real-time to project staff so that enhanced protections can be effectively implemented. The North Atlantic Right Whale ranks among the world’s most endangered whale species, with an estimated 410 remaining.
“For offshore wind power to rise to its full potential as a massive source of clean energy and jobs for America, we need leadership and innovative solutions to ensure that all projects are developed responsibly with strong protections in place for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale,” said Catherine Bowes, Offshore Wind Energy Program Director at the National Wildlife Federation.
The information gathered is also expected to be useful to scientists studying the Right Whale and other marine mammals, as well as help other mariners avoid impacts on Right Whales. Vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglement are widely reported as being the leading causes of Right Whale mortality.
Vineyard Wind is taking a number of measures to protect the Right Whale beyond the PAMS initiative. For example, it will also curtail turbine construction during the winter and early spring months when the North Atlantic right whales are in the vicinity, and will be deploying measures to reduce underwater noise during installation of the turbine foundations.
The company previously announced a $3 million Wind &; Whales Fund to advance marine mammal protections as the offshore wind industry develops along the East Coast, and to support the development of innovative methods and technologies to enhance protections for marine mammals.
Vineyard Wind was selected in May 2018 by Massachusetts electric utilities to provide 800-MW of wind generation capacity from a project located 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. The project is projected to generate enough electricity to supply 6% of Massachusetts’s electricity usage. As the project continues to move ahead with public and regulatory review through more than 25 federal, state, and local approval processes, Vineyard Wind remains on track to begin construction in 2019.
Once operational in 2021, the Vineyard Wind project will reduce Massachusetts’ carbon emissions by