Birds

The largest offshore wind project in the USA is getting closer to approval as the environmental assessment is completed

The Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) has completed its environmental assessment of the proposed Vineyard Wind I project off the coast of Massachusetts, bringing it one step closer to obtaining final approval for the largest offshore wind project in the United States to date. The results show that the project took care to reduce the impact on migratory birds.

“With the lives of billions of birds shaken by climate change, responsible and verified clean energy projects like Vineyard Wind are vital,” said Garry George, director of the National Audubon Society’s Clean Energy Initiative. “We look forward to working with Vineyard Wind to ensure the project continues to advance in ways that avoid, minimize and mitigate its impact on the environment.”

The Vineyard Wind I project will supply up to 800,000 households with 800 MW of energy. The National Audubon Society has made efforts to comply with the following regulations:

  • Measures to assess the impact on marine birds and migratory birds by the Law on the Treaty on Migratory Birds (MBTA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA), prioritization of endangered rose terns, red knots and plovers;
  • Best Management Practices (BMPs) and other measures to avoid and minimize the effects on these birds; and
  • Development and implementation of new technologies to monitor the presence of these birds on the project site and their interactions with the turbines, including collision and displacement, as well as using standardized data acquisition before and during construction as well as during operation to compare all projects in the Atlantic.

Piping Plover, Copyright Paul Jones, from the Surfbirds Galleries

BOEM responded to Audubon’s regulations by asking Vineyard Wind to develop a surveillance program that included pre- and post-construction bird surveys, the installation of radio telemetry receivers in the project area, and the use of radio transmitter backpacks for any species of concern that might interact with the Vineyard Project Wind I and use of additional monitoring technology as soon as it becomes available.

BOEM further recognizes that the results of this monitoring program should be publicly available and used as part of an adaptive management strategy in which additional mitigation measures are applied when the observed impacts on birds are greater than expected. In addition, the project is well positioned to avoid major offshore marine bird habitats based on the best scientific evidence available.

Audubon will continue to work with developers and regulators to develop and implement standardized standardized monitoring frameworks for all projects so that offshore wind can be developed efficiently and responsibly.

“While there is still work to be done to tackle the worst effects of climate change, projects like Vineyard Wind are important to achieving our zero carbon goals,” said George. “This project shows that it is entirely possible to boldly pursue a cleaner future while at the same time dealing responsibly with wildlife.”

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