Historic Agreement Offers Template to Protect Right Whales During Offshore Wind Development

Jan 30, 2019
Source: Wikipedia North Atlantic Right Whale mother and calf.

Vineyard Wind has entered into an unprecedented agreement with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation and Conservation Law Foundation to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. As per the pact, Vineyard Wind will institute a variety of protective measures to keep right whales safe while it installs and operates turbines at its proposed 84-turbine project off the coast of Massachusetts.

“Scaling up offshore wind in wildlife-friendly ways is essential to confronting the climate crisis,” said Collin O’Mara, NWF president and CEO. “By ensuring that offshore wind power is responsibly built and operated, this model agreement is a win-win for conserving wildlife and creating well-paying jobs.”

Elizabeth Heyd, senior communications program assistant for the NRDC, stated in a press release about the agreement, “Harnessing offshore wind is a key step in transitioning the nation away from dirty, polluting fossil fuels to a clean energy economy.”

Vineyard Wind, said chief development officer Erich Stephens, has strived to work with all stakeholders to proactively resolve potential issues and design the best possible project – the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind project.

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 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.

The company will additionally invest $3 million to develop and deploy innovative technologies and undertake scientific research to further safeguard the marine mammals.

When complete, the Vineyard Wind facility will consist of more than 80 turbines capable of generating 800 megawatts of electricity, enough power for more than 400,000 homes.

“This innovative agreement is proof that we can grow the clean energy we need to power our homes and businesses and at the same time protect vulnerable wildlife like the iconic North Atlantic right whale,” said Nathanael Greene, NDRC senior renewable energy advocate.

Priscilla Brooks, director of ocean conservation at CLF, added, “As we ask more of our oceans, we must ensure that we balance the critical need for clean energy with the protection of our majestic right whales and other marine species. This agreement marks a significant step forward in responsible development of offshore wind energy.”

Barely 400 right whales remain on the planet. For decades, the NDRC explained, the whales have been harmed by many existing marine uses, including fishing gear entanglement and vessel collisions.

“This agreement comes at a pivotal moment,” Heyd noted. “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 this side of the Atlantic, states are mobilizing to bring offshore wind power online. Collectively these states have committed to develop 15 GW of offshore wind power, enough to provide clean, renewable power for five million homes.”

The full agreement is available at nrdc.org.

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch


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