(Boston, MA – 1/20/15) Gov. Charlie Baker speaks during a news conference at the State House, Tuesday, January 20, 2015. Staff photo by Angela Rowlings.

State and Federal Officials Release Marine Wildlife Studies to Guide Offshore Wind Development

BOSTON – October 25, 2016 – State and federal officials today released a pair of
marine wildlife
studies
on the presence of endangered whale, turtle and bird species to inform federal
offshore wind development permitting processes. The studies, which are the result of
a three-year effort sponsored by MassCEC in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of
Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), will provide baseline data to guide and expedite the
federal permitting process for offshore wind development, and work to support the
deployment of offshore wind in Massachusetts in an environmentally responsible
manner.

The studies, which were funded by BOEM and the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust,
found no significant conflicts between wildlife and offshore wind development in
federally designated wind energy areas beginning 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard
and identified opportunities to minimize impacts to marine wildlife in those areas.
Researchers conducted the surveys using underwater acoustical buoys as well as
aircraft flights staffed with wildlife observers. The large whale and sea turtle
survey team was based at the New England Aquarium and a second team from the College
of Staten Island studied impacts on seabirds.

«As the Commonwealth begins to harness the benefits of offshore wind power
generation, it is imperative that we balance innovation with our obligation of
environmental stewardship for the waters surrounding our state,» said Energy and
Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. «These studies will streamline the
permitting process for an emerging energy growth sector while protecting the
environment so the Commonwealth can solidify its position as a hub of energy
innovation while creating high-quality jobs and providing cost-effective power for
ratepayers.»

The surveys greatly expand the existing understanding of wildlife presence and
activity in the wind energy area. Federal permitting agencies will use the results
of the studies to review developers’ site-specific plans for construction and
operations of offshore wind projects.

«Offshore wind presents a significant resource of clean, homegrown, renewable energy
for us to cultivate here in Massachusetts,» said MassCEC Interim CEO Steve Pike. «By
completing this proactive environmental work, the Commonwealth is well positioned to
realize significant benefits of the burgeoning offshore wind industry.»

The whale and turtle data was collected from 76 aerial surveys conducted in the
study area between October 2011 and June 2015. The data was supplemented by more
than 1,000 days of continuous underwater acoustic recording for whales. Throughout
their observations, researchers from the New England Aquarium sighted 60 North
Atlantic right whales, a critically endangered species, over the entire study only
during winter and spring. The North Atlantic right whales primarily migrate into the
area and engage in short-term feeding before moving onto feeding grounds throughout
the Gulf of Maine.

«The data, information, and analyses developed through this long-term cooperative
study have improved our understanding of the distribution and abundance of marine
mammals and sea turtles in the area,» said Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone
Management Director Bruce Carlisle. «The study demonstrates the effectiveness of
collaboration across local, state and federal agencies, offshore wind developers,
fishermen, and communities.»

Researchers from the College of Staten Island recorded 25 species of seabirds from a
total of 38 aerial surveys conducted between November 2011 and January 2015.Two
locations, known as «hotspots», were identified where larger than average
aggregations of seabirds occurred on a regular basis. Both hotspots were located
outside the federal wind energy areas.

«This multi-year study is a major advance in the scientific understanding of marine
mammals in what was largely a previously un-surveyed and uncharacterized habitat
revealing new right whale habitat-use patterns and demonstrating consistent seasonal
occurrence in portions of the study area,» said New England Aquarium Chief Scientist
of Marine Mammals Dr. Scott D. Kraus. «The study provides a robust baseline
assessment to inform the federal permitting process, and will help inform strategies
to minimize or avoid impacts from construction or operations.»

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has lease
agreements with three offshore wind developers – Deepwater Wind, DONG Energy, and
Offshore MW – to build projects in the federal waters south of Massachusetts. They
will compete to provide 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind – which would cut annual
carbon emissions by 2.4 million tons and power one-third of Massachusetts homes –
over the next 10 years as part of the comprehensive energy
legislation
signed by Governor Baker in August.

The studies build upon the MassCEC’s nation-leading efforts to advance the
responsible and efficient deployment of offshore wind and position Massachusetts as
a hub for the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry. These efforts also include the
operation of the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, the first facility in the
U.S. designed for offshore wind construction, assembly, and deployment projects;
operation of the Wind Technology Testing Center, one of the largest in the world,
helping manufacturers advance technology and drive down costs; an offshore wind
transmission study to assess the most cost-effective cable routes and
interconnection locations to incorporate offshore energy into the regional grid; a
metocean data initiative to advance the collection of wind data near federal
offshore wind energy areas south of Martha’s Vineyard; grants for offshore wind
research at Massachusetts universities and institutions to optimize technology and
deployment to Massachusetts wind and ocean conditions; supply chain analysis to
connect Massachusetts manufacturers, suppliers, and service companies to offshore
wind developers and contractors; and investment in training programs to ensure that
Massachusetts residents have the skills and certifications necessary to participate
in the offshore wind industry.

«Mass Audubon applauds MassCEC’s work that’s being done in terms of marine wildlife
characterization and while we support the efforts to develop offshore wind energy
off the coast of Massachusetts, we also support the efforts to protect the most
important and critically endangered species in the North Atlantic,» said Jack
Clarke, Director of Public Policy for Mass Audubon.

«Thanks to the leadership of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the U.S.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, we now have valuable information needed to
protect vulnerable species like endangered North Atlantic Right Whales as offshore
wind projects move forward,» said Catherine Bowes, Senior Manager at National
Wildlife Federation. «National Wildlife Federation strongly supports responsibly
developed offshore wind power, and we look forward to working together to ensure
this new research guides our pursuit of a critically-needed new clean energy source
for the Commonwealth.»

«The United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management remains deeply committed to
ensuring that renewable energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf is done in
a safe and environmentally responsible manner,» said BOEM Director Abigail Ross
Hopper. «The survey results confirm that responsible commercial wind development
activities in these Wind Energy Areas will not adversely affect protected species
populations.»

«This is an important step in the responsible development of offshore wind,» said
State Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield). «We can and will preserve and protect
marine life, while developing clean energy to tackle climate change.»

«These two studies contain important data showing the state can move forward on
several clean energy initiatives that will not have an adverse impact on marine
wildlife or the environment,» said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr.
(R-North Reading).

«In addition to our state’s world leading technological resources, we also have
renewable energy generating capacities that are both environmentally sustainable and
economically viable,» said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester).
«Coastal communities will benefit from our ability to further develop off-shore wind
production and this is particularly gratifying when we know there is science-based
research intended to minimize impact on marine life. Conscientious efforts to
prevent risk to species coupled with a decrease in our production of harmful
greenhouses gases is environmental stewardship that helps us all.»

«I want to thank the MassCEC and the BOEM for their work on these valuable studies,»
said State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer). «Offshore wind power is an integral piece
of the clean energy puzzle in the Commonwealth, and these studies will allow us to
move closer to making it a reality.»

«As we develop renewable energy sources in the Commonwealth, I am proud to know that
our federal and state bodies are maintaining the shared responsibility to protect
our wildlife,» said State Representative Paul Schmid III (D-Westport), House Chair
of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. «Offshore
wind has serious potential for benefits here in Massachusetts, and I look forward to
a more efficient permitting process thanks to these studies.»