As climate change continues to impact our lands, oceans, wildlife, and even our day-to-day activities, finding ways to power our homes and businesses with clean, renewable sources of energy is becoming more critical. New England hasn’t been immune to climate fallout: Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest warming bodies of water on the planet; ocean acidity levels are increasing; and we are already beginning to witness the impacts on local communities.
The Benefits of Offshore Wind
Today is Global Wind Day. Offshore wind is an energy source that helps mitigate climate change by reducing the amount of harmful pollutants entering the atmosphere. CLF recognizes this potential and is committed to moving forward the development of offshore wind while safeguarding important marine species and ocean activities.
According to data from our partners at the National Wildlife Federation, the waters off the Atlantic coast have the potential to generate more than 1,300 gigawatts of energy. Just 52 gigawatts are enough to power 14 million homes and add $200 billion to coastal economies.
Offshore Wind and Regional Ocean Planning
Recognizing the importance of energy and infrastructure to the region, the Northeast Regional Planning Body selected this as one of the ten ocean and coastal resources for inclusion in the Northeast Ocean Plan. The Plan emphasizes the availability of potential offshore wind resources in New England, particularly off Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
On the Northeast Ocean Data Portal, there are maps of operational, permitted, and in-review offshore renewable energy projects. The portal also includes maps on marine life and habitat, commercial fishing, cultural resources, and other human uses, providing the opportunity for a holistic, ecosystem-based perspective of offshore wind development. Project reviewers are able to overlay the maps and assess potential conflicts. If – and when – offshore wind projects are proposed, all data and information included on the Portal and in the Plan should be consulted so as to minimize impacts on the ocean ecosystem, other ocean activities, and stakeholders.
CLF is an Advocate for Wind and Whales
Conservation Law Foundation has worked hard to support the development of offshore wind while ensuring the impacts on vulnerable species and habitat, in particular the endangered North Atlantic right whale, are carefully considered and avoided. We work with offshore wind developers in the region to craft mitigation measures, specifically site characterization assessments, which aim to reduce adverse impacts on right whales. To date, these have been voluntary agreements, but it is our goal, with the help of the Northeast Ocean Plan, that these assessments will become business as usual.
On this Global Wind Day, as a region historically, culturally, and economically tied to the ocean, it is important to reflect on our progress and realize our opportunities for utilizing our ocean and ocean resources to address the challenges we must confront in the face of climate change.