HARTFORD, CT — A group of unpaid volunteers finished its work recommending a strategy that optimizes wind resources while minimizing the impact of offshore wind on fisheries and the environment.
The 24-page report by the unwieldy titled “Commission on Environmental Standards for Minimizing and Mitigating Environmental and Commercial Impacts of the Construction and Operation of Offshore Wind Facilities” offers guidance to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which will be responsible for bidding up to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind power.
The report recommends that the selected developer set up a mitigation fund to be used to offset economic losses or burdens to the commercial fishing industry, the environment, or other events that arise from unavoidable impacts of offshore development.
“This fund should not be used in place of avoiding or minimizing impacts,” the report states. “Developers should follow the principle of first avoiding conflicts or impacts, then minimizing those that are unavoidable, mitigating the impacts from new development through appropriate use of communications and technology, and finally, only once those have been adhered to, considering compensation for any residual losses.”
From fish to birds, the report also recommends that developers consult with experts to provide a site-specific inventory of all species at risk and the impact on each.
Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe, director of bird conservation for Audubon Connecticut and a member of the commission, said there is nobody counting birds 30 miles offshore, so there’s not a lot they know about the birds and their migration patterns that far from shore.
She said the commission wants developers to monitor wildlife, including birds, during construction and operation. She said there was widespread agreement that developers come up with technologies to avoid or minimize the impact even during the construction phase.
There’s also a need to monitor the migration patterns of birds during the night as well as the daytime. She said research shows some birds are attracted to lights at night, so developers may need to consider reducing the amount of light associated with each turbine.
“The final recommendations reflect a lot of knowledge about birds, fisheries, wildlife, and ecosystems, and we expect that DEEP will include these environmental standards in their final Request for Proposals slated for release on August 15, 2019,” Folsom-O’Keefe said.
The commission was also concerned about the impact of sound on marine animals.
“Sounds resulting from bottom surveys, ships, and construction may risk introducing possible changes in mammal behavior, including effective habitat reduction because of sound avoidance, interruption of life-cycle activities, and injury to hearing. For some marine mammals, low-frequency sounds produced by pile driving, if performed in close proximity to an animal, can potentially cause permanent damage to hearing or temporarily make it difficult for the animal to hear predators, prey, and each other,” the report states. “The bidder should provide a description of how it will avoid, minimize, and mitigate the projects risk to marine mammals and sea turtles.”
The commission also recommended that the application “include a description of how the proposer will seek to minimize the risk of ship strikes through timing, speed restrictions, use of shipping lanes, and other mitigation measures. The application also should address risk of direct mortality to birds and bats from collisions with wind turbines and other structures.”
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection noted that the report “does not necessarily comprise the views and opinions of DEEP and should not be construed as such. DEEP’s role with the Commission was to facilitate and inform the discussion. DEEP will consider the final recommendations of the Commission in finalizing the first RFP solicitation.”