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Report details hidden variables in placing wind farms

A new University of Delaware report maps out the deep-sea variables that await offshore-wind developers looking to build turbines off Delaware and adjoining states.

The Center for Carbon-Free Integration report culls information from numerous sources, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium. Together, they paint a picture of the human activities and wildlife deep beneath the waters off Delaware, much of Maryland and southern New Jersey.

“The ocean is a busy place, even if from the beach it looks pretty serene,” said Jeremy Firestone, the center’s director.

The report takes a look at where birds, marine mammals and sea turtles go, as well as where the shipping lanes are. It includes information about areas with fishing equipment and artificial reefs.

It’s full of maps, including several that show where whales and dolphins have been sighted.

“There’s something pretty much everywhere,” Firestone said, underscoring that siting a wind farm involves trade-offs.

It also includes information about bird migration patterns and about wind speeds.

The report’s lead authors are Alison Bates, Kateryna Samoteskul, John Callahan and Firestone. The 107-page report is titled “Delaware Marine Spatial Planning, Offshore Wind Context.”

Bates said anyone with an interest in the impact of offshore wind farms, from citizens to developers to regulatory agencies, will find the report useful.

“It’s useful to see just how busy our oceans actually are,” Bates said.

The report was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant program, as well as Delaware’s Sea Grant program.

The report was written without regard to the fate of the Bluewater Wind project. Bluewater, owned by NRG Energy, had a contract for offshore wind power with Delmarva Power, but NRG terminated it in December amid financing problems for the project.