New offshore wind construction regulations around North Atlantic Right Whales will be discussed at a conference about the Offshore Wind industry on Tuesday. Vineyard Wind and members of various environmental groups will be discussing the new regulations in regards to offshore wind construction and how they can mitigate damage to North Atlantic Right Whales.
The whales’ migratory path crosses through many of the offshore wind lease plots south of Martha’s Vineyard and the agreement establishes that no construction will happen during migration season. It also establishes speed limits on boats passing through the area, and commits the company to use noise mitigation strategies. National Wildlife Federation program director Catherine Bowes said offshore wind farms in the area pose the biggest risk to the whales while they're under construction.
"It’s really that construction that underwater noise that’s among the biggest concerns for us, so making sure it minimizes the noise as much as possible and occurs at the time that are least likely to be of danger to right whales is a key piece of that," Bowes said.
She noted that as of this weekend, the east coast is set to see about 20,000 megawatts of offshore wind power come online in the next 15 years. As more offshore wind farms begin construction along the east coast, agreements such as the one created with Vineyard Wind will become more important.
"Twenty-thousand megawatts is a significant amount of offshore wind, it’s also every megawatt that still has got to be done right and developed responsibly, making sure that these projects are developed in a way that can coexist in our coastal communities and our already very busy oceans," Bowes said.
Bowes and other researchers have noted that the most disruptive part of the wind farms are not the turbines themselves, but the vibrations created from constructing them that could disrupt whale breeding and migration in the area. Vineyard Wind has agreed to a construction timeline that would happen only from mid-May through the end of December to lessen this disturbance.