$11 million over 10 years are the final numbers in a deal between US Wind and the University of Maryland for three research projects to study the impacts of offshore wind.
The agreement between the company and the university’s Center for Environmental Science was announced Thursday, with the focus of the projects being repercussions of offshore wind farms on marine mammals, fish, and birds.
The research will take place in US Wind’s 80,000-acre federal lease area off the coast of Ocean City.
“We’re really pleased with this continued partnership with US Wind on important questions related to the environmental impacts of offshore wind development,” said Peter Goodwin, the center’s president. “We look forward to working with them along with state and federal agencies to help make the best decisions to minimize impacts to the environment.”
US Wind confirmed the projects will begin this year and will build on the environmental baseline work the company routinely does for its installations.
Such work also includes its initiative with contractor Normandeau Associates to conduct aerial digital surveys to identify birds that may be displaced or avoid the wind farm once the turbines are installed.
“As US Wind works to develop offshore wind off Maryland’s coast, it’s imperative that we do so responsibly,” said Jeff Grybowski, US Wind CEO. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with UMCES on industry-leading environmental research that will enhance protections for marine life as we develop this clean energy resource for the region.”
The three areas the studies will cover include: commercial and recreational fisheries monitoring, real-time whale detection and passive acoustic monitoring.
The goal of the fisheries monitoring is an eight-year program is to evaluate the extent that black sea bass change their aggregation behaviors before, during and after construction.
Black sea bass are structure-oriented with large aggregations occurring on artificial reefs and wrecks. Turbine foundations will add three-dimensional structure within US Wind’s Lease where very little currently exists.
Whale detection will continue the deployment of a near real-time whale detection system to provide timely alerts on the presence of baleen whales, North Atlantic right whales, and humpback, fin, and sei whales for a 12-month period from 2022 to 2023.
Finally, acoustic monitoring involves long-term research project that support passive acoustic monitoring to detect large whales such as North Atlantic right whales and dolphins.
That data will be used to understand their presence and migration patterns in and around the lease area and the potential effects of construction.
Working with Cornell University’s Center for Conservation Bioacoustics, two types of listening devices will be deployed to determine the occurrence and position of large whales and dolphins, and to detect the tonal echolocation clicks of small cetaceans including porpoises.
“The Department appreciates the coordinated research into safer equipment and marine wildlife monitoring,” said Catherine McCall, director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Office of Ocean and Coastal Management. “The ongoing deployment of Maryland’s whale monitoring buoy provides daily detections and helps resource managers protect sensitive species.”
US Wind noted monitoring these populations is “a critical step in conservation” to measure changes, track threats, and evaluate the success of wildlife management.
Rep. Andy Harris, Md-1st, applauded the efforts by US Wind to examine any potential environmental impact, but continued to state his opposition to industry expansion off the Maryland coast.
“I’m glad that US Wind finally recognizes the potential negative effects of developing offshore wind in Maryland,” Harris said. “We should pause all further development until we know the results of this study as well as determine other potential negative effects before proceeding.”
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