With almost 100,000 miles of shoreline, the U.S. is researching, leasing and developing its potential for offshore wind power, but the process has been a bit slow to start with a lot to consider in very thoroughly charted waters.
While most of this research focuses on where the strongest winds blow, one report from the University of Delaware looks at the whole picture and impact of offshore wind farms. The Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration (CCPI) created a report that goes beyond high winds to look at biological, ecological and other considerations when determining which locations off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey are viable options.
The shores off Delaware are appealing for wind energy due to their relatively shallow waters and proximity to a large area of energy demand. However, the researchers point out that much of these potential wind farm locations are already very much in use—by marine life as well humans utilizing the areas for fishing, shipping, cable crossings and recreation.
If offshore wind requires destroying or throwing off one ecosystem in favor of another, then that potential clean energy becomes—well, a little less clean. To make sure that doesn’t happen, the UD team stresses the importance of marine spatial planning so that all stakeholders in the area are represented and accommodated—especially the wildlife that can’t lobby for their own interests.
To determine the best areas for offshore wind development, researchers analyzed a wide range of data and created maps charting out information on seabird activity, marine mammal and sea turtle migrations, wildlife habitat, potential wind speed, commercial shipping lanes, geological features and fishing areas.