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.

The Wind Farm’s Case

Autor

  • Publication: Southampton Press
  • Published on: Nov 21, 2020
  • Columnist: Karl Grossman

It would be the biggest offshore wind farm in New York State — more than 100 wind turbines starting 30 miles east of Montauk Point. It’s being called Sunrise Wind.

A “cable bundle” containing two electric cables would be buried under the seabed and extended west from the turbines for 100 miles, making landfall in the parking lot at Smith Point County Park in Shirley, and buried underground there. The cabling would then run for 17 miles, all underground, along William Floyd Parkway and, remaining underground, along other roads, and then the Long Island Expressway, reaching the Long Island Power Authority substation just north of the LIE in Holtsville.

Sunrise Wind would generate 880 megawatts of electricity and feed into the Long Island electric grid at Holtsville. The 880-megawatts would provide for 500,000 homes, nearly half of the Long Island Power Authority’s 1.1 million customer base.

A “virtual open house” was held on the project last week. Presentations were made and questions answered by representatives of the owners of the Sunrise Wind project, Denmark-based Ørsted, the world’s largest developer of offshore wind farms, and Eversource, a product of a merger of New England utility companies that included Northeast Utilities.

Ørsted, since acquiring Deepwater Wind, owns the Block Island Wind Farm, consisting of five turbines off Block Island — the first U.S. offshore wind farm, which went operational in 2016. Ørsted and Eversource together own the proposed South Fork Wind Farm, which is to have 15 wind turbines also placed in the Atlantic east of Montauk Point.

The number of wind turbines in the Sunrise Wind project would depend on the size of the turbines used. If 8-megawatt turbines, common in new offshore wind farms, are used, the total would be 110. If the turbines would be smaller then there would be more to produce 880 megawatts of electricity. The project is “permitted for up to” 122 turbines, according to a spokesperson.

New York State last year awarded Ørsted the contract to develop Sunrise Wind after a competitive bidding process.

In the online “virtual open house,” representatives said the Sunrise Wind project would be a “catalyst” for clean energy. Here are some of the other points made by the representatives:

It would be a key to the “transition to clean energy” in New York State and the goal of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state to have “100 percent clean energy by 2040.”

The turbines would be “barely visible” from any shore. There would be “no harmful emissions,” and Sunrise Wind would “displace 2.1 million metric tons of carbon pollution” every year.

The “cost to the average ratepayer” on Long Island would be “less than $1 per month” extra on her or his electric bill. “Construction work could begin as early as 2023” — after all necessary permits are obtained — and completed in 2024.

There’d be a “host community benefit agreement,” through which Ørsted and Eversource would provide funds. Suffolk County Community College would become the “training center in Suffolk County” for offshore wind technology. It would be the “academic arm of the initiative.”

Port Jefferson would become a “hub” for activities. Workers on the Sunrise Wind project would live in two-week shifts on a “service operational vessel.”

Ørsted “brings unparalleled expertise” to the project, with its 26 “successful offshore wind farms” and “1,500 turbines worldwide.”

Cables would be buried “the entire length of the route.” All the “construction areas” would be “fully restored.” There would be “minimal environmental impact.”

Ørsted and Eversource welcome “stakeholder suggestions.” A slogan of “we listen, we learn, we adjust” was displayed. “We are totally committed to protect the environment … and work with commercial and recreational fishing interests.”

As to why the South Fork Wind Farm and the Sunrise Wind project would have different landing points, the explanation was that the South Fork project would be sending DC electricity to Long Island, and Sunrise would be sending AC. Also, there would be a difference in the voltage sent.

Offshore wind farms are able to harvest more wind power than onshore wind projects, said the representatives. Wind isn’t blocked and turbines can be larger, it was explained.

They said Sunrise Wind would be a “game-changer,” the “first of many” similar “large-scale” U.S. offshore wind projects. Also, offshore wind is an excellent “complement” to the other major source of clean electricity — solar power.

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.”

NOAA fish study underway on New England offshore wind area

An autonomous undersea glider deployed in December 2019 is helping to map cod spawning habitat around offshore wind energy areas off southern New England. NMFS photo.

By Kirk Moore on MARCH 12, 2020   An autonomous undersea glider deployed in December 2019 is helping to map cod spawning habitat around offshore wind energy areas off southern New England. NMFS photo.

A three-year study of cod and other commercial fish species is underway around New England offshore wind energy sites, part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration effort to better understand how proposed turbine arrays will affect the environment and fisheries.

With universities and other partners, the agency’s National Marine Fisheries Service in December deployed a Slocum electric glider, a type of autonomous underwater vehicle that has proven highly successful in long-term oceanographic studies.

The glider’s instrument payload includes a hydrophone to detect the sounds of whales and of fish spawning, and an acoustic telemetry receiver to pick up signals from fish that have been captured and released with acoustic tags to track their movements.

The survey is covering an area that includes the proposed South Fork Wind Farm south of Rhode Island. BOEM image.

Now surveying the area around Cox’s Ledge, the glider is covering an area that includes wind developer Ørsted’s planned South Fork wind energy area south of Rhode Island and east of Montauk, N.Y.The survey is covering an area that includes the proposed South Fork Wind Farm south of Rhode Island. BOEM image.

Running on battery power, undersea gliders use a system of water ballast and pumps to slowly climb and dive in the water column, their wings generating lift and forward motion. With their long range and endurance, gliders can survey large areas for weeks at a time, occasionally surfacing to send collected data to vessels or shore by satellite uplink.

For this phase of the study, the acoustic data “will identify location and seasonal occurrence of hotspots for key commercial and federally listed fish species,” according to NOAA.

There is little specific information on Atlantic cod spawning in southern New England waters, according to project lead Sofie Van Parijs, who heads the Passive Acoustics Research Group at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

Elsewhere, cod have been are known to form large, dense spawning aggregations in predictable locations relatively close to shore. That can make them vulnerable to disturbances that might affect spawning success, according to NMFS.

“Biological sampling will determine the population’s onset of spawning and track growth, maturity, age structure, and other life history parameters,” Van Parijs said. “This information will help inform the starting date for our glider surveys each year. We will tentatively conduct these surveys from December through March this year and for longer periods in the subsequent two years.”

The study is underway at a critical time for the future of the fledging U.S. offshore wind energy. In August 2019 the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was compelled to hold up its environmental impact statement for the Vineyard Wind project off Massachusetts, after NMFS insisted more information was needed about potential effects on the marine environment and fisheries.

Even before the agencies came to an impasse over the environmental assessment, fisheries scientists had been warning there needs to be more baseline information about fish populations around proposed wind power sites before construction.

Now BOEM is funding the acoustic surveys. Data for a larger study by the offshore energy planners, including potential cumulative impacts of Vineyard Wind and other projects, is scheduled to start being assembled by mid-June, with a final report scheduled for December 2020.The glider uses water ballast and wings to slowly ‘fly’ underwater over long ranges carrying its instrument package. Christopher McGuire/Nature Conservancy photo.

Ørsted is using the glider detection of endangered whales to guide plans for monitoring and mitigation requirements in the South Fork project, where the company hopes begin construction as early as 2021. Similar mapping will be used for planning the company’s other projects off the East Coast, including Ocean Wind array off southern New Jersey.

For the fisheries aspect of the study, researchers will tag up to 100 spawning cod with acoustic transmitters so the glider can identify spawning area. Other sensors carried on the glider collect detailed environmental data, to help scientists better understand the temperature preferences and habitat use of spawning cod in the region.

A new near real-time telemetry system is operating detect whales and fish, and the public can see data and photos as they come in from the project on a new public web page.

The project team includes experts from the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries; The Nature Conservancy; University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science & Technology; the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office; and Rutgers University.

NIMBY folks in Wainscott

Following is in response to the recent opinion piece in Newsday.

Last Sunday’s Opinion,  winds of change, is clearly an opinion of  NIMBY folks in Wainscott (population 700+) who don’t let facts interfere with their story. 

Win With Wind’s (formed in 2019) sole purpose is to produce fact-based information regarding the benefits of renewable offshore wind energy.  Win With Wind is independent and not affiliated with any wind or energy development company and has no financial ties with any interest group or individual who has a monetary stake in such an enterprise. Win With Wind is non-partisan and does not promote or oppose the candidacy of any individuals for public office at any level.  The only former town official on its 4 member board or 7 member steering committee is a former East Hampton Town Supervisor who left office more than 30 years ago.

Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott is a small group with significant money that has hired teams of lawyers, engineers, PR firms, etc., to push alternative landing sites, that are all problematic. 

East Hampton locals are concerned about climate change.  Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott selfishly don’t want to be inconvenienced.

The South Fork Wind Farm will power 70,000 homes and off-set 300,000 tons of carbon emissions each year.

Jerry Mulligan, WinWithWind Steering Committee

 

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.

Wind Turbines Are Not Killing Fields for Birds

Sep 3, 2019, from STATISTA

President Trump continues his years’ long dispute with wind turbines, claiming that wind turbines diminish home property values, cause cancer, and “kill all the birds.”

Wind turbines have not been found to diminish home values of nearby properties or cause cancer. According to numbers aggregated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, cats are a bigger scrooge to the overall bird community than wind turbines. The most recent estimate places the number of bird deaths at the paws of cats at 2.4 billion. Collisions from wind turbines on land killed a small fraction of birds in comparison to the damage that cats and glass buildings cause to the general bird population. Land wind turbines were responsible for over 200,000 bird deaths while collisions from building glass are estimated to be responsible for nearly 600 million bird deaths. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not provide estimates for deaths resulting from offshore wind turbines.

As the wind power industry grows and expands, the renewable’s relationship to its environment is coming under more intense scrutiny. While the relationship between wind turbines and different types of bird populations, particularly apex birds, is understudied, there is some evidence that turbines can hurt those populations. Hawaii, home to many endangered species, has taken extra steps to protect species that could be vulnerable to wind energy. The state requires all potential wind projects on both private and public land to have permits and conservation plans for the bird and bat population. Hawaii also documents animal mortality data from independent, third-party experts, with some wind farms subjected to steep fines for killing any federally protected birds.

As wind turbines become more common, reforms in this spirit could help alleviate some of the drawbacks of the new energy source.

Infographic: Wind Turbines Are Not Killing Fields for Birds | Statista

Get with the Program

LTE published in the East Hampton Star:

Negotiation
East Hampton
December 23, 2019

To the Editor:

Initially, Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott claimed that it supported the South Fork Wind Farm but did not want the cable buried under Beach Lane. Interesting, Wainscott made no objection earlier in the year to East Hampton Town and Suffolk County burying nine miles of water pipe in Wainscott roadways (including Beach Lane) when the water quality of Wainscott’s aquifer was called into question.

Next, C.P.W. argued that the cable should come ashore at Hither Hills. The plan was to bury it under Montauk Highway from Hither Hills through Amagansett and East Hampton Village and then up Route 114 to the Cove Hollow Road substation. This would be very disruptive to homes, businesses, and traffic along this 11-mile route. This would take two off-seasons to complete. When asked why this was preferable, Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott had no answer. F.Y.I., Beach Lane has six year-round residences.

Now, C.P.W. is opposed to the wind farm because the price negotiated with LIPA is too high. The agreement between Deepwater/Orsted and LIPA (which was approved by the New York State Public Service Commission) was the result of a public bid, which Deepwater/Orsted won because it provided electricity at the lowest cost. Now, four-plus years later, new wind farm bids are coming in even lower. Such prices will benefit South Fork residents since PSEG prices are based on a mix of all the prices it pays for the electricity it delivers. Lower prices for power from the newer wind farms will lower PSEG costs, and thus bills to consumers will go down.

Recently, C.P.W. claimed, without any supporting details, that within five years there would be more efficient and affordable ways to solve the power needs on the East End. Ninety-nine percent of scientists agree climate change is a current crisis. We need immediate action to address South Fork power needs, air pollution, health risks, sea level rise, as well as the existential crisis of climate change.

Finally, C.P.W. complains that Orsted is breaking its promise to explore the Hither Hills route in the Public Service Commission settlement negotiations, which are ongoing. Significant time was spent on the Hither Hills route during those negotiations, and on Jan. 8, at the request of C.P.W., an additional settlement negotiation will be held to allow C.P.W. to present its alternative route.

Orsted has gone out of its way to cooperate with C.P.W. The only deception has been on the part of C.P.W., which has little credibility. Clearly, C.P.W. is just a small, moneyed Nimby group who wants electricity for Wainscott without any involvement or inconvenience on their part.

It’s time for C.P.W. to get with the program and support the wind farm, which will provide electricity to 70,000 South Fork homes, including the 700 or so in Wainscott.

JERRY MULLIGAN

Good News from Vineyard Wind in Rhode Island

RI official applauds wind farm layout announcement

RI official applauds wind farm layout announcement: Says Vineyard Wind agreeing to plan it rejected nearly 2 years ago. By Bruce Mohl – Nov 20, 2019

THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council applauded Vineyard Wind and four other companies for agreeing to a common layout for their New England offshore wind farms, but he said the configuration the firms are proposing is exactly what his agency pressed Vineyard Wind to adopt nearly two years ago.

Grover Fugate said the decision by the wind farm developers to go with a standard east-west orientation with each turbine one nautical mile apart settles a lot of concerns about how fishing, navigation, and search and rescue operations can coexist with the developing offshore wind industry. “I think it takes a lot of the issues off the table,” he said.

Getting issues off the table was a big priority for all the companies, as the industry is temporarily stalled while the Coast Guard and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management are trying to decide how Vineyard Wind’s first-in-the-nation proposal will mesh with other projects coming along in the development pipeline. While some fishing interests are still grumbling about this week’s turbine layout proposal, Fugate’s personal endorsement is a strong signal the initiative is likely to pass muster with both fishermen and federal regulators.

Still, Fugate can’t help but chuckle how Vineyard Wind came around to the council’s point of view. “The alignment that they’re doing is what we were trying to get Vineyard Wind to do two years ago,” Fugate said. At the time, Vineyard Wind had proposed 84 turbines arranged on a northwest-southeast orientation, with the turbines nearly nine-tenths of a nautical mile apart. The council, representing fishing interests, pressed for an east-west orientation with one nautical mile between the turbines. Vineyard Wind resisted, insisting it was on a tight schedule to take advantage of a federal tax credit and it had already spent $25 million taking core samples from the ocean floor at each of its proposed turbine locations.

“They said it would have killed the project if we delayed it,” he said.

In February, the council and its Fishermen’s Advisory Board grumbled about Vineyard Wind’s proposed layout but nevertheless gave their blessing after the company agreed to make $4.2 million in payments to commercial fishermen over 30 years and create a $12.5 million trust to cover additional costs. If the council and its advisory board had voted against the Vineyard Wind project and ended up being overruled on appeal, they could have ended up with nothing.

Now the council may get the wind farm layout it wanted plus the settlement money it negotiated earlier. (“Our lawyers are looking at it,” Fugate said.)

Fugate said the biggest advantage of the layout proposed by the five wind farm developers is its simplicity, allowing the east-west lanes to be used for fishing and the north-south lanes for navigation. He said the east-west lanes can alternate between fixed-gear fishing (lobster) and mobile-gear fishing (squid). Fugate said the layout would appear to satisfy most fishermen, but he acknowledged some still want additional two-mile navigation lanes cutting through the wind farm areas.

A big questionmark now is whether Vineyard Wind can build its wind farm even if it passes federal muster. Fugate said the company told the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council nearly two years ago that the project would go belly up if it was delayed. In mid-July, the company said the project would be at risk if it wasn’t approved by federal regulators in six weeks. In early August, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management put the wind farm on hold indefinitely, but Vineyard Wind insisted the “project remains viable and continues to move ahead.” The joint announcement on wind farm layout earlier this week suggests Vineyard Wind continues to believe the project is viable, even though its original timetable has been blown up.

A spokesman for Vineyard Wind declined to comment on the record. In a letter to the Coast Guard released on Tuesday, the five companies — Vineyard Wind, Eversource Energy, Mayflower Wind, Orsted North America, and Equinor Wind — laid out why the standard configuration serves all interests best. “The New England leaseholders are proude to be working together to present a collaborative solution that we believe accommodates all ocean users in the region,” they said.