Both supporters and opponents of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm are hailing the findings of recent research on the environmental impact of Danish offshore wind turbines.
Supporters of Cape Wind Associates’ plan to build 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound say the research released last week at an international conference supports their contention that wind farms pose little threat to wildlife. But Cape Wind foes say the Danish research highlights the need to carefully study the environmental impact of offshore wind turbines on a case-by-case basis.
Researchers who prepared the report, ”Danish Offshore Wind – Key Environmental Issues,” examined two offshore wind farms in Denmark over an eight-year period and found there was little, if any, negative impact on birds, fish or marine mammals. The 144-page report also noted that a sociological and economic study found generally favorable opinion of the wind farms at the local and national levels.
The researchers studied wildlife near wind farms at Horns Rev, where there is an 80-turbine facility, and Nystead, a 72-turbine facility.
Cape Wind officials say the research vindicates their contention that the Nantucket Sound wind farm would not harm the environment.
”The report … is very significant because it reinforces a lot of things we have said all along,” said Craig Olmsted, Cape Wind’s vice president of project development, who attended the conference in Denmark where the research was presented.
”Listening to the scientists at the conference who had done the studies, it was really clear: Offshore wind farms in Denmark have been good neighbors to birds, fish and people,” he said.
Susan Nickerson, executive director of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, attended the same conference but drew a different conclusion.
She said the report underscores the importance of selecting the right site for a wind project through assessing the potential impact on birds, fish and marine mammals. The Danes rejected several sites before building wind farms on the two sites examined for the report, Nickerson said.
”The single most important basis for siting the Cape Wind project is economic – is it going to be profitable for a developer? It’s the reverse of how they do it in Denmark,” she said.
Nickerson said U.S. regulators should follow the Danes’ lead and proceed cautiously when siting offshore wind turbines.
”The Danish government has developed a broad national energy policy and offshore wind is just one part of that policy. They spent a considerable amount of time figuring out where and how to site the projects so as to have minimum impact on the environment,” she said. ”The success of those projects bears that out.”
Nickerson emphasized the favorable findings concerning the Danish wind farms cannot be extrapolated and applied to Nantucket Sound.
”The Danish report focuses on one specific species of bird – eider ducks,” she said. ”You cannot assume that the impact on that species will hold true for the species we are concerned about in Nantucket Sound.”
By Karen Jeffrey
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