Offshore Wind Developer Commits to Whale Protection

North Atlantic right whales
North Atlantic right whales

By The Maritime Executive 01-23-2019 05:58:07

U.S. offshore wind developer Vineyard Wind has agreed to take measures to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales while installing and operating turbines at its proposed 84-turbine project 14 miles off the coast of Massachusetts.

Turbine construction will be curtailed in the winter and early spring when the North Atlantic right whales may be in the area, and there will be comprehensive monitoring to ensure that construction doesn’t take place when the whales are near the site. Vineyard Wind will dampen construction noise that disturbs the whales’ ability to communicate, find food and stay on their migratory path. The agreement also includes strict vessel speed limits.

Additionally, Vineyard Wind will invest $3 million to develop and deploy innovative technologies and undertake scientific research to further safeguard the marine mammals.

The measures were drawn up in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation and Conservation Law Foundation.

The agreement comes at a pivotal moment, and the organizations hope that it will provide a model for future offshore wind developments to follow. 

After nearly 30 years of commercial advancement in Europe, U.S. offshore wind development is poised to surge over the next decade. While only five offshore wind turbines are operating now on the U.S. Atlantic coast, states are mobilizing to bring offshore wind power online. Collectively these states have committed to develop 15GW of offshore wind power, enough to power five million homes.

When complete, the Vineyard Wind facility will be capable of generating 800 megawatts of electricity, enough power for more than 400,000 homes. Construction is expected to commence this year. In November, Vineyard Wind announced it will be using MHI Vestas' 9.5MW turbines for the project, each able to generate enough power for 8,000 homes. As a result, Vineyard Wind is able to reduce the total number of turbines for the project from 106 to 84, decreasing the project’s footprint by more than 20 percent.

Late last year, Vineyard Wind acquired a second offshore wind lease area 30 miles south of Nantucket.