US Wind awards $11 million in funding for marine life research

US Wind, Inc. (US Wind) announced $11 million in ten-year funding to the University of Maryland Environmental Science Center (UMCES) for three research projects aimed at understanding the potential effects of offshore wind development on marine mammals, fish, and birds.

US Wind’s funding will support three projects, all scheduled to start this year, to understand the potential environmental effects of offshore wind development in the mid-Atlantic.

UMCES’ three research projects include Commercial and Recreational Fisheries Monitoring. The objective of this eight-year program is to assess the extent to which black bass modify their aggregation behaviors before, during and after construction. Black bass are structure oriented with large aggregations occurring on artificial reefs and wrecks. The turbine foundations will add a three-dimensional structure to the US Wind lease, where very little currently exists. This research project will assess the benefits and potential effects on fish aggregation. It will also test black bass fishing with ropeless gear, an important technology for reducing whale entanglements.

The research also includes Near real-time whale detection. This initiative will continue the deployment of a near real-time whale detection system to provide timely alerts on the presence of baleen whales (North Atlantic right whales and humpback whales, fin whales and sei whales) for a 12-month period from 2022 to 2023. The project is a unique partnership between UMCES and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution that uses specialized silent mooring technology, whale vocalization detection algorithms, and telecommunications to transmit frequent alerts on the presence of baleen whales. The initiative enables continuous, real-time data collection through the buoy system initially funded by the Maryland Energy Administration and deployed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The third project concerns Passive acoustic monitoring network. This long-term research project will support passive acoustic monitoring to detect large whales – such as North Atlantic right whales – and dolphins to understand their presence and migration patterns in and around the concession area. and potential construction effects. In collaboration with Cornell University’s Center for Conservation Bioacoustics, two types of listening devices will be deployed to determine the presence and position of large whales and dolphins, and to detect tonal echolocation clicks of small cetaceans , including porpoises. In addition, this project will deploy equipment to listen to the passage of fish, sharks, rays and turtles that have been implanted with transponders for wider scientific research.

These UMCES-led research projects build on baseline environmental work done by US Wind to better understand the environment in and around its concession area and mitigate the potential effects of offshore wind development on marine life and avian species. One such initiative, led by US Wind through its contractor Normandeau Associates, involves digital aerial surveys to identify birds that might move or avoid the wind farm once the turbines are installed. These research and monitoring programs also inform the extensive analyzes the federal government must perform to approve the construction and operation of offshore wind projects.

Projects were selected based on their effectiveness and ability to complement existing research efforts in the scientific community. All data will be made available to government and academic researchers, and reports and information will be made public to help protect these important species and ecosystems for generations to come.

The research will take place in US Wind’s 80,000-acre federal lease area off Ocean City, Maryland. This lease includes two projects,
MarWinand dynamic wind which has seen success in different rental cycles. With a combined capacity of 1.1 GW, the two projects are expected to supply electricity to 350,000 homes.

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