Recently, new areas were added to the growing list of potential sites for offshore wind development on both the East and West Coasts of the U.S. The Biden-Harris Administration announced the news with excitement, as these two areas – off the coast of Oregon and in the Central Atlantic – are part of the Administration’s goal of reaching 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
WDC was a little more reserved in our excitement. Offshore wind energy is moving forward rapidly and there are still many concerns to make sure these facilities are developed responsibly and without harm to marine life.
Like any large-scale development in the ocean, wind energy does pose a risk to the environment. We need a robust process that considers the potential impacts from all phases – starting with the assessments just initiated by the recent announcement of those two new areas off Oregon and the Central Atlantic. We can advance the renewable energy we need in a way that protects the marine life we love (and also need!).
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WDC has worked with many other conservation groups over a period of several years to provide expert input on the potential impacts of offshore wind and to urge the federal government to include conditions that protect vulnerable habitats and marine life. We’re happy to see our input being considered and incorporated in some parts of the process, but there is still much more that needs to be done.
Planning for offshore wind should start with careful consideration of where to put sites. By identifying sensitive habitats, areas important to survival and recovery of protected species, and hotspots of biodiversity, these important areas can be protected through every stage of offshore wind development.
These new potential offshore wind areas off Oregon and the Central Atlantic are in just the right stage to identify and avoid those important habitat areas. A comprehensive environmental review of these areas now will save time in the future by making sure important concerns are addressed before any development occurs. The process should be supported by strong science, transparent about environmental considerations, developed in collaboration with all stakeholders and all levels of government - including Tribal governments - and should ensure frontline communities are not disproportionately impacted by development.
Offshore wind has a lot of potential to help the U.S. meet clean energy goals and reduce the impacts of climate change, which are already impacting whales and marine ecosystems. But it must be done right. Whales can help fight climate change, too - and we shouldn’t lose species or essential habitat while trying to save the planet. Developing offshore wind with strong protective measures, robust monitoring and research to further understand and alleviate its impacts is essential to the future of offshore wind and our marine life.