Right whale #3720

Right Whale #3720 with her calf

On March 18th Chris Paparo, the manager of Stony Brook University’s Marine Sciences Center reported a sighting of a mother right whale with her calf just 300 yards off an East Hampton ocean beach!  #3720, as she is called, had travelled from waters near Wassaw Island, Georgia, where she and her calf were last seen on Jan. 19th 2021, their final destination perhaps Cape Cod bay, or as far north as the gulf of St. Lawrence.

We all know that the right whale is a critically endangered species with less than 400 individuals still alive and perhaps less than 100 reproducing females.  Spotting calves with their mothers represents a glimmer of hope.

With plans to build an offshore South Fork Wind Farm 35 miles east of Montauk point and run a submarine cable coming ashore on a Wainscott beach, I could not help wonder how the developer (Ørsted) plans to safeguard these magnificent marine mammals.

Here is my lay person report.

  • Ørsted takes this very seriously.  I spoke with Sophie Hartfield Lewis, Ørsted Head of U.S. Permitting. Safeguarding whales are clearly dear to her heart. Together with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution they are tackling issues like the correct distance between a source of submarine noise, such as pile driving, and a whale straying into the area. At what distance is there assured harm to the whale’s hearing (permanent or temporary)? At what distance do all drilling operations need to be halted? Currently that stands at 1 km depending on what marine species is involved and the type of noise emitted, including the noise frequency.  F.ex. frequencies above 200 mHz are deemed safe because whales don’t hear them or because they don’t have adverse reactions to them.
  • I also learned about techniques used to dampen noise.  (a) There is something called a ‘Big bubble curtain’ (BBC): it consists of a flexible tube fitted with special nozzle openings and installed on the seabed around the pile. Compressed air is forced through the nozzles producing a curtain of rising, expanding bubbles. These bubbles effectively attenuate noise by scattering sound on the air bubbles, absorbing sound, or reflecting sound off the air bubbles! (b) There is the Hydro-Sound Damper (HSD): it consists of a fisher net with different sized elements, laid out at various distances from each other, and encapsulating the pile. HSD elements can be foam plastic or gas-filled balloons. Noise is reduced as it crosses the HSD due to reflection and absorption. (c) There is the AdBm, Helmholz resonator: it consists of large arrays of Helmholtz resonators, or air filled containers with an opening on one side that can be set to vibrate at specific frequencies to absorb noise, deployed as a “fence” around pile driving activities.  Sophie told me that if operations were to start tomorrow, they would use BBC.
  • I spoke with Catherine Bowes of the National Wildlife  Foundation.  Key recommendations include: seasonal & temporal restrictions on pile driving; real-time monitoring of science-based exclusion zones; underwater noise limits; vessel speed restrictions; and commitments to pre, during & post-construction monitoring to ensure we learn as we go, in launching this new clean energy industry. This last point is essential for informing impact mitigation strategies along the coast. 

Sophie Hartfield Lewis directed me to an online pdf. Pages 100-166 directly concern mitigation strategies for the SFWF. It is titled “Protected Species Mitigation and Monitoring Plan South Fork Wind, LLC.“  I warn the reader: it gets pretty involved.

The world has seen an increasing and alarming number of extinctions in recent years. And that’s only the ones we know about. Ultimately, protecting threatened species protects us, the human species, because loss of biodiversity has health impacts among many other ill effects. Just google ’loss of biodiversity.’   Simultaneously, we are existentially threatened by climate change.  Thus, we have no choice. We need to save species like the right whale and we need offshore wind energy.

Win With Wind held a virtual seminar on

Offshore Wind Farms & Protection of Endangered Species

Q&A with 2 renowned experts:

Catherine Bowes,  Program Director, National Wildlife Federation

Sophie Hartfield Lewis, Head of Environment & Marine Affairs, Ørsted

Wednesday Jun 9, 2021, 4:00 – 5:30  PM

The seminar can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube:

Aging Energy Infrastructure

Guestwords in the East Hampton Star

By David Posnett March 17, 2021

On the South Fork of Long Island, we all know about yearly brownouts during peak demand for power in the summer. Indeed, energy demand on the South Fork is growing at almost twice the rate of the rest of Long Island.

And now we have witnessed the power outages in Texas during freezing weather. With decades of neglect of their power grids, refusal to update the necessary infrastructure, and an ill-advised policy of not building connections with out-of-state grids, many lives were lost and the economic fallout is still unknown.

Locally, two major blackouts in 1965 and 1977 paralyzed New York City and exposed the vulnerability of the power grid. The full story can be read by Googling “Gaslights to Generators,” a September 2002 article on New York City’s energy history by Meryl Feiner.

Long Island is in a precarious situation in terms of meeting growing energy demands. Historically the Island has not produced sufficient energy, and thus it imports energy from elsewhere. But with solar and now wind energy sources, this is about to change. There are plans for 4,000 megawatts from wind farms off Long Island shores and 130 megawatts from the South Fork Wind farm, the project that is furthest along.

An interesting article in Newsday by Mark Harrington, updated on Feb. 24, discusses a NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) report on the required updates to the grid and the infrastructure required to manage the massive new clean energy sources being planned. Harrington quotes Tom Falcone, chief executive of the Long Island Power Authority, saying, “As you put more and more offshore wind onto the grid, think of it as water pipe. At some point you reach the limit, so in order to have more offshore wind you have to upgrade the pipe.”

If we do nothing, the report indicates, there would be a need for “curtailments,” or intentional power outages.

The total cost of the required infrastructure updates would be about $1.5 billion. The upgrades include building a 345,000-volt circuit from LIPA’s newly built Shore Road substation in Glenwood Landing to the substation in Melville, an upgrade of the South Shore transmission grid (already in process), conversion of an existing 138,000-volt transmission line in Levittown to 345,000 volts, a new interconnection line between the LIPA and Con Edison systems, solar power upgrades of various substations, and improvements that are either already part of LIPA’s capital budget or have already begun, such as upgrading transformers and switching gear and substations to higher voltages.

A full list of LIPA’s transmission system and distribution system projects was presented on Feb. 24 at the LIPA trustee meeting. The slide deck can be found at lipower.org.

I asked some experts the following question: Would these grid upgrades also be required if the source of the required extra energy were solely fossil fuel generated, and to what extent are the costs a result of converting to clean energy?

“It is clear that we need to increase the capacity and resilience of the Long Island grid, so let’s get to work on the immediate upgrades and retrofits necessary within the current infrastructure,” said Mariah Dignan of Climate Jobs NY and the Climate Jobs NY Education Fund. “But as we begin to realize the clean energy economy, we will need bulk power transmission and distribution voltage upgrades over the next decade to handle offshore wind generation, increased electrification, and a better flow of renewables from upstate to downstate and vice versa. These investments will pay off for decades to come, and labor is fighting to ensure this transformation creates good union jobs and protects Long Island ratepayers.”

Gordian Raacke, the executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, said that if the same amount of capacity would be interconnected at the same locations, similar grid upgrades and costs would be needed for fossil fuel versus renewable energy. But it is also fair to say that fossil fuel generation could be located in other parts of the state, while offshore wind resources would have to be interconnected along the shore.

In addition, he said, there are several misunderstandings that need to be cleared up. First, the potential transmission and distribution upgrades are not associated with the South Fork Wind farm but with all of the offshore wind farms that would be connected to the Long Island grid, as well as the interconnection of distributed solar and energy storage projects. These costs would not be borne exclusively by Long Island ratepayers but shared across New York State. These are potential projects identified in studies and proposed for study. LIPA does not believe that all of these “possible transmission projects” will be built. And last, most of the transmission projects would not be needed until 2025 through 2035.

Gordian has often reminded us, from the beginning, that the energy infrastructure must be renewed or replaced regardless of wind farms. This is a really costly undertaking, and it’s terrific that PSEG is proposing to make it a state­wide charge to ratepayers.

Green energy can put the wind in Long Island’s sails

From the Editorial Board of NEWSDAY

Credit: Don Pollard. 

February 9, 2021 

Offshore wind is having a moment, and none too soon.

For years, it’s been clear that embracing green forms of energy like wind and solar is key to fighting climate change, which increasingly threatens our region. Now, with the auspicious alignment of recent developments, the winds of change are blowing mostly in the right direction.

Progress has been substantial, as far as it goes. There’s still lots to do. For all the plans announced by state officials, all the interest from offshore wind companies, and all the contracts signed, we still have to:

  • build the facilities to manufacture wind farm components,
  • improve port infrastructure in Brooklyn and Albany so those parts can be shipped,
  • construct the wind farms off Long Island and lay the cables to deliver the energy that will reduce our dependence on greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels,
  • set up training programs for workers who will maintain the farms, and
  • develop the maintenance hubs for those workers.

Delays will be inevitable. Perseverance and communication will be critical. If the permitting process can be responsibly streamlined to allow the consideration of local objections but not let them grind progress to a halt, do it. But baseless NIMBY concerns, like those raised by some Wainscott residents against the landing of an underground cable in that South Fork community, cannot be allowed to derail this fight that’s vital to the health of our region.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set the stage with lofty goals: 9,000 megawatts of wind power by 2035 and a carbon-free electrical grid by 2040. With recent awards to Equinor of two more wind farms, generating 2,490 megawatts and joining three other farms already awarded, the state is nearly halfway to its target. Also announced: an agreement with Equinor to build the nation’s first manufacturing plant for offshore wind towers and transition pieces, at the Port of Albany, with finished components to be shipped down the Hudson River. Prompt completion would position New York as a manufacturing hub for the industry in the Northeast and bring hundreds of good-paying jobs and precious revenue, all of it eagerly sought by other states in the region. Stony Brook University and Farmingdale State College are developing flexible programs to train and certify offshore wind industry workers.

The Biden administration’s commitment to offshore wind and its appointment of Long Islander and former Cuomo aide Amanda Lefton to head the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency that oversees the development of offshore wind, are promising. BOEM under the Trump administration stymied offshore wind; now it likely will advance delayed environmental reviews and reconcile differences with New York over suitable offshore wind areas and get them leased.

There’s a lot at stake in the state’s overall green energy program, besides the juice capable of powering 6 million homes. Cuomo says it also will create more than 50,000 jobs and attract $29 billion in private investment. Good environmental policy is good economic policy, too.

Let’s keep moving forward, and keep the winds of change at our backs.

Unwarranted Alarm about the South Fork Wind Project

From the East Hampton Star.


Noyac
December 21, 2020

Dear David,

Thank you for the consistent coverage of the South Fork Wind project. I’m glad to see the progress with permitting and to know the process is working — rigorous environmental review by the responsible agencies and inclusion of stakeholder input from the onset.

Marine construction in all forms has the potential to impact the environment. Water quality, habitat and living resources can be adversely affected. Specific to South Fork Wind, damages incurred during turbine installation and jet-plowing the 60-mile submarine cable are largely temporary and biologically inconsequential.

As for the cable landing, unlike the Block Island project, which employed the shallower jet-plowing that allowed the cable to become exposed, horizontal directional drilling is the methodology that will be used here. Horizontal drilling is capable of threading the cable deep into the sea floor and well below the influences of the high-energy surf zone. There is zero chance the cable will be exposed, and opponents of the project should stop conflating the two for the purpose of inciting unwarranted community alarm.

East Hampton should be commended for its due diligence with project review and for negotiating a substantive mitigation package. Beyond the obvious benefits from transitioning to renewable energy, there’s a golden opportunity to deliver meaningful actions for improving environmental health. Think big and act bold.

KEVIN MCALLISTER

Founder

Defend H2O

A Whale of a Tale

We know that Right Whales are in danger of extinction.

  • As the ocean warms, North Atlantic Right Whales are moving north to cooler waters in unprotected zones, where they die from vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear and where their food sources may be scarce.
  • Fewer than 250 mature North Atlantic right whales were estimated to be alive at the end of 2018, with the total population having plummeted by 15% over the last decade.

The factors contributing to the dwindling population of Right Whales include vessel strikes, fishing gear entanglements and lack of food. Climate change is redistributing the crustaceans called copepods that Right Whales eat.

Right Whales are spending more time in Canada than they used to, which is causing serious problems for their conservation.  The deaths since 2017 are largely due to some form of human action, like boat collisions, both in United States and Canadian waters. Quite a few, though not all, of these collisions have happened in the St. Lawrence Estuary in Canada.

But the Right Whale population has also seen low reproductive rates and declining health status in recent years that can’t be explained by vessel impacts. New research points to another possible culprit: climate change.

The Gulf of Maine is warming more rapidly than nearly any other ocean ecosystem on the planet. Scientists think the reasons include changes in the path of the Gulf Stream and the way its warm waters are interacting with other currents in the North Atlantic.

“Deep waters are warming and we think that is having an impact on the life cycle, and the distribution of the critters that right whales eat,” says Pendleton. Those critters – flea-like animals known as copepods, specifically the species Calanus finmarchicus – are a critical food supply for the endangered whales. Read more about this here.

Noise pollution can mask whales’ important underwater communication calls and reduce foraging success, which affects species’ health and reproductive abilities. Ocean noise can also divert the whales from their typical migration paths into areas unsuitable for feeding or into the path of passing ships.

Thus, it is heartening that offshore wind project plans are adopting restrictions, beyond those required by law, on vessel speed and limits on loud turbine construction from pile driving and geophysical survey activities. The limitations take in to account the times when North Atlantic Right whales are unlikely to be in the area.

Given the urgency of the climate crisis, the Natural Resources Defense Council is working hard to advocate for all forms of clean renewable energy projects, including the nascent offshore wind industry.

Local NIMBY groups in East Hampton fighting offshore wind projects, such as the South Fork Wind Farm, are using the plight of Right Whales in a sinister ploy to derail these offshore wind energy projects, which would only worsen ocean warming and the lack of critical food supply for Right Whales. Yet these same groups can not even tell the difference between a Right Whale and a Humpback Whale! See their posters attached in pdf format.

Union Labor for Offshore Wind

Submitted by Judith Weis:

Ørsted Works to Bring More Union Labor to Offshore Wind

November 20, 2020

Block Island wind farm. Image: Wikimedia commons

On Wednesday11/18/20, Danish energy company Ørsted joined with North America’s Building Trades Unions (formerly known as the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department) to create a program that trains wind energy workers in hopes of deploying more offshore wind along the East Coast.

In doing so, these groups have piloted a new way to create more carbon-free energy while also expanding job opportunities and training to workers in a rapidly growing sector of our economy. 

Why This Matters: Some labor unions haven’t always embraced a transition to a clean energy economy fearing that such a transition would wipe out high-paying jobs in existing energy and industrial sectors and replace them with lower-wage alternatives. Yet this program strives specifically to bring labor unions on board to help grow the nascent U.S. offshore wind industry. 

As it stands, the United States is lagging behind Europe and Asia in maximizing its offshore wind energy capacity. Europe has 22,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity, Asia has 8,000, while the United States only has just over 40–it’s a chance to reduce emissions while creating jobs. 

A New Energy Sector: Ørsted operates a wind farm off Block Island — America’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm, and has also built a two-turbine project off the coast of Virginia. The Rhode Island project was built with union labor and served as a pilot for a more sweeping national agreement.

To expand this program, Ørsted and NABTU will select the necessary skills to create an offshore workforce as well as a training and certification program to prepare potential workers to construct new wind energy projects.

The United States has 15 active commercial leases for offshore wind farms. According to statistics from the America Wind Energy Association, if these farms were constructed, they could generate 30 gigawatts of electricity, create 83,000 jobs, and bring in 25 billion dollars in annual economic output over the next ten years.

Moreover, it’s important that Ørsted is working alongside labor unions to ensure fair wages and benefits. NABTU’s president supports the agreement, telling Reuters: “This will show how as we move and transform our energy production in North America, it can be done at middle-class wages and good benefits packages. Anything else is not acceptable.”

A Fisherman’s Perspective about Offshore Wind

Paul Forsberg A Fisherman’s Perspective about Offshore Wind after serving 8 months as a Captain on an Offshore Wind Survey Vessel. Click on the below image to see the YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rmu5zQ0OLk

This is a must watch for all of us. Could not say it better.

Wainscott Best Site to Bury Power Cable

OpinionLetters, By Newsday Readers December 16, 2019 10:02 AM

Richard DeRose of Wainscott walks his dog at

Richard DeRose of Wainscott walks his dog at the town beach on Beach Lane in Wainscott, likely site of a cable landing for the South Fork Wind Farm. Dec. 5 Credit: Newsday/Mark Harrington

Thanks for your Dec. 9 news story on the South Fork offshore wind project [“Negotiations over cable”] about talks regarding the landing site of an electrical cable. As a former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, I’m no stranger to local opposition to projects like this. But the opposition by Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott to the cable landing is “not in my backyard” on steroids. I encourage this small group of owners of second homes to reconsider.

The cable landing in Wainscott is preferred because it is the least environmentally disruptive and would affect the fewest people for the shortest period. Unfortunately, despite the need to rapidly move away from fossil fuels, the citizens group is taking an irrational “anyplace but here” attitude. The temporary inconvenience from burying the cable would be minimal, and would occur in the offseason, when most owners of second homes are not around.

Connecting this offshore energy to the Long Island grid is now being reviewed by several state agencies. I believe this time-tested process, along with decisions by local officials, will produce a project that is good for the South Fork, Long Island and the state. I urge citizens of Wainscott to support it. After all, coastal property owners have the most to lose if New York does not lead the way in combating climate change.

Joe Martens, East Hampton

Editor’s note: The writer is director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance, a coalition of organizations supporting wind power.