By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff
The Block Island Wind Farm is a 30-megawatt, demonstration-scale
offshore wind farm to be sited 3 miles southeast of
The sitting of turbines for the
know where the environmentally sensitive areas are,” said Jeffrey
Grybowski, senior vice president for strategy and external affairs for
Deepwater Wind. “Environmental concerns are part of the discussion, but
there are trade-offs. The construction of the Block Island Wind Farm
will for the most part shut down one of the dirtiest forms of energy we
have — diesel.” Diesel-powered generators supply
The Ocean SAMP area is an ecologically unique region that contains an interesting biodiversity that is a mix of northern, cold-water species and southern, warm-water species. Any offshore renewable energy development could result in temporary or permanent habitat displacement or modification during the construction, operation or decommissioning of a facility, according to the document.
Water quality around an offshore renewable energy facility may potentially be impacted if illegal dumping or accidental spills occurs from vessels or equipment. Birds may potentially be displaced from offshore feeding, nesting, migratory staging or resting areas.
Juvenile fish and eggs in the Ocean SAMP area are rich and varied, and show strong seasonality for many species, which is most often linked to reproduction. The adult fish community in Ocean SAMP waters is dynamic and diverse, but has undergone a major change during the past several decades. Bottom-dwelling fish such as winter flounder were once dominant. Since the mid-1970s, however, there has been a shift towards pelagic fish species dominance, with a corresponding increase in bottom-dwelling invertebrates such as crabs and lobster. The dominant fish species are now bluefish, butterfish and sea robins. Marine mammals — whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals — appear in the Ocean SAMP area, but sparsely and generally on a seasonal basis. But the impact of offshore wind farms on marine mammals and fish are relatively new, and in most cases still under development, according to the Ocean SAMP.
Among the high-priority concerns regarding the construction and
operation of a wind farm — whether it’s the five-turbine one off Block
Island or a potential commercial-scale operation — is the impact on
He said Deepwater Wind will monitor work areas during the construction of the Block Island Wind Farm and if any right whales or other marine mammals are spotted, work will be stopped and all sonar turned off. Marine mammals have highly developed acoustic sensory systems, which enable individuals to communicate, navigate, orient, avoid predators and forage in an environment where sound propagates far more efficiently than light, according to the Ocean SAMP.
Underwater noise will likely be generated during all stages of an offshore renewable energy facility, including during pre-construction, construction and operation. The strength and duration of the noise will vary depending on the activity, from pile-driving, which will result in short periods of intense noise, to the long-term, low-level noise associated with operational activities. To help mitigate potential impacts on marine mammals, especially to large whales such as right, humpback and fin, pile-driving will be done above the water column, Grybowski said.
Stone commended the Ocean SAMP research, but also noted that it doesn’t take the place of a formal wind farm environmental impact statement, which will need to be completed before any offshore large-scale commercial wind farm is built. He also said the environmental costs of installing wind farms must be compared with the true costs of continuing to use fossil fuels.
“We understand that renewable energy is critical to our future, and we think there are ways to minimize the environmental impacts,” Stone said.