The Facts about Offshore Wind

Wind energy is essential to New England’s clean energy future. It is good for our environment, protects our health, and creates good-paying jobs here at home. With offshore wind energy developed in the right way and in the right places, we can oust dirty, polluting fossil fuels from New England. 

But the fossil fuel industry isn’t ready to give up its hold yet. Oil and gas companies are pushing back against offshore wind. They are twisting facts and spewing disinformation – often roping in local “grassroots” groups to spread false messages unwittingly.  

With so much misinformation swirling around, we’re laying out the facts you need to understand the future of offshore wind. 

Why is offshore wind so important?

The climate crisis is already here. We see it in increasingly powerful storms, rising seas, soaring temperatures, massive forest fires, and shifting fish populations. Moreover, New England and its oceans are warming faster than the rest of the country. That puts us at greater risk of extreme weather and more rapid sea level rise. 

Offshore wind may be our region’s best opportunity to replace burning polluting fossil fuels – the cause of climate change – with clean electricity.  New England can’t meet our clean energy commitments without offshore wind. 

I read that offshore wind construction is killing whales. Is that true?  

There is no evidence of whales being killed by offshore wind, and we cannot allow these lies to stand uncorrected. Citing so-called “research,” often provided by fossil fuel-funded think tanks, opponents of offshore wind are pushing the false narrative that the industry is killing whales. These opponents are co-opting the language of conservation and environmentalism to mask their opposition to renewable energy. 

Why would people lie about wind turbines killing whales?  

Many individuals and groups stalling offshore wind with lawsuits and disinformation are driven by concerns about views from oceanfront homes, while others are fronts for increased fossil fuel use. Some are both! Investigations have found that many “grassroots” groups are quietly receiving funding, resources, or even legal representation from fossil fuel interests. 

But if these groups succeed in shutting down offshore wind, we face a climate future of worsening floods, droughts, and other weather extremes. That also will condemn environmental justice neighborhoods to more years of living with polluting fossil fuel facilities – just to protect the views of wealthy, white communities. 

We can’t allow those who oppose offshore wind development to co-opt the language of conservation to stop renewable energy and keep us hooked on fossil fuels.

What is putting whales at risk?  

Human impacts and climate change are the two greatest threats to whales. Climate change is warming the ocean at unprecedented rates, putting whales and other marine life in precarious straits. Those warming waters shift where and when whales can find their prey. A hungry whale’s search for food pushes them into shipping lanes, where they are at higher risk of deadly collisions with ships.

We can see, right now, that continued dependence on fossil fuels – including their extraction, combustion, and disposal – is devastating for ocean and coastal waters and the marine life that depend on them.

That’s why offshore wind is critical to avoiding the worst impacts of the climate crisis, protecting marine life, and building New England’s clean energy future.

Is there anything wind developers can do to mitigate any risks to whales?

Yes. Before projects get the green light, developers must take concrete steps to minimize the risk of harming whales. With speed limits of 10 knots or less, boats are far less likely to hit and seriously injure whales. In Europe, developers have dramatically reduced the number of boat trips to turbine construction sites by requiring some workers to be housed at them. Improving the monitoring and detection of whales, researching their habits, and implementing noise reduction technologies could also help offshore wind developers protect whales. These measures could help developers work to slow climate change while protecting the endangered whales who roam off our shores. 

What about commercial fishing – aren’t offshore wind and fishing inherently at odds?  

No. Commercial fishing and offshore wind turbines can coexist. Fishermen have legitimate concerns about access to fishing grounds and the impacts of wind turbines on habitat and species. Developers must address these concerns. Some Indigenous groups have also expressed concerns about how wind development will impact access to the water and its resources.

Developers and the fishing industry, including Indigenous representatives, must bring the best science, data, and local knowledge to the table and engage in open and honest dialogue early in the process. We’re already seeing this play out. For example, some wind companies have offered direct compensation to affected fishermen. 

Offshore wind is ready to replace fossil fuels. Already, the industry is reshaping some of our old port cities and rehabilitating waterfronts. It also provides jobs and training a new generation for promising careers with a solid economic future. We cannot let an increasingly well-funded campaign of disinformation and outright lies slow that down.