Nation’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Gets Green Light
By Kit Kennedy
New York State made clean energy history today when the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) approved a contract for the nation's largest offshore wind project, which will be located in the waters off Eastern Long Island. The approval is the first step toward meeting a historic commitment announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month to put in place enough offshore wind power to light 1.25 million New York homes within 13 years.
It is proof positive that New York means business when it comes to clean energy. With his commitment to add the 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030, Gov. Cuomo has now positioned New York State to be the leader in realizing the infrastructure, jobs and economic development benefits of the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry.
Here are the latest details. The board of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), the area's public power provider, voted this morning to approve a power purchase contract with Deepwater Wind, the U.S. offshore wind developer that built the nation's first offshore wind project off Rhode Island, which began commercial operation in December. The LIPA contract will enable Deepwater to finance the 90-megawatt South Fork project by guaranteeing a buyer for the project's electricity.
The South Fork project would be the second—and biggest—offshore wind power project in the country, following the 30-megawatt (MW) Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island waters. The South Fork project would power 50,000 homes in Long Island's South Fork region, helping to meet peak demand in the area. It would deliver electricity via an underwater cable directly to East Hampton, helping the town meet its forward-looking goal of getting 100 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2030.
Deepwater Wind has already secured a lease for the project from the federal government but still needs to go through the federal and state permitting and environmental approval process. Because the project will be sited 30 miles from Montauk, it will be "beyond the horizon" and therefore invisible from shore, avoiding any possible complaints about visual impacts.
#ICYMI: On Monday, America's first offshore #wind power project began commercial operations. https://t.co/OzxkNwsOG7 by @NRDCKit @EcoWatch— NRDC (@NRDC)1481991843.0
Protecting Marine Ecosystems
In terms of ecosystem and wildlife issues, Deepwater Wind has already shown its commitment to protecting the marine ecosystems. It has worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other environmental organizations to develop plans to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, which migrate up and down the East Coast. At its Block Island project, the company successfully put these protective measures in place. We intend to work with Deepwater to replicate similar ecosystem-protection measures for the South Fork project, assuming the project moves ahead.
Scaling up offshore wind power in New York, beginning with this LIPA project, can bring a host of benefits to New York's electricity grid, as I have described before. The jobs and economic potential of offshore wind are huge, as well: A SUNY Stonybrook study found that a single, 250-megawatt offshore wind power project could create 2,800 jobs and generate $645 million in local economic output, while a companion study finds such a project could be built with "essentially no impact" on consumers' electric rates. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that by 2050, with the right policies in place, the offshore wind industry could support 160,000 jobs nationwide.
The LIPA vote this morning also means that 2017 is already shaping up to be a pivotal year for U.S. offshore wind, as developers aim to build on the success of the nation's first offshore wind project by pursuing plans for a dozen or more projects up and down the East Coast.
In December, bidding for the leasing rights to a federal offshore wind energy area south of Long Island went through 33 rounds of bidding before the Norwegian developer Statoil won the auction for a record $42 million. And last week, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which manages federal ocean energy resources, announced the nation's next offshore wind energy lease auction, which will be for 122,000 acres off the North Carolina coast. Meanwhile Massachusetts has committed to build 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power over the next decade and Maryland is moving forward with plans to put 870 MW of offshore wind in place.
I joined other clean energy advocates in celebrating today's contract approval.Natural Resources Defense Council
Gov. Cuomo's support for the South Fork project and his commitment to developing 2,400 MW of offshore wind power as part of his broader plan to get 50 percent of New York's electricity from renewable resources by 2030 are a testament to what bold state leadership on climate and clean energy can achieve. In this new era, we'll need this state leadership more than ever.
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By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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By Ashutosh Pandey
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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