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For nearly 100 years, the Empire State Building has stood as a testament to the industriousness and economic power of the United States. Now, it can also be considered a beacon for the future of sustainable energy. Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT) signed a deal in early February to convert the Empire State Building, along with all of its other real estate holdings, to 100% renewable energy.
ESTR is Investing in the Economic and Environmental Future<p>ESTR's properties throughout the Northeast will not be directly powered by wind energy from Green Mountain Energy. Instead, Green Mountain will ensure that an equivalent amount of energy used by the Empire State Building and other holdings will be produced throughout the U.S. This not only reduces the nation's environmental footprint but provides access to sustainable energy to areas that could otherwise not afford such an investment.</p> <p>This is a major step forward in New York City's commitment to <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/new-york-fossil-fuel-divestment-2524494059.html" target="_self">divesting fossil fuels</a>. In 2018, the city decided to <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/climate-action-mayor-comptroller-trustees-announce-first-in-the-nation-goal-to-divest-from-fossil-fuels/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">file lawsuits</a> against several major fossil fuel companies directly contributing to the climate crisis. They also decided to divest the city's pension funds from fossil fuel companies and reserve owners. To celebrate, the Empire State Building glowed green from its peak to show support for the mayor's decision.</p>
Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" data-width="1244" data-height="1244" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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Many people expect the future of transportation to be electric, and that drivers will charge their cars with solar and wind power. Recently, scientists got a window into that future and saw what it could mean for the climate and people's health.
<div id="9b820" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cdbcb237d30bb9f384ddd01ee0f0c9e0"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1361711788493074432" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Texas is frozen solid as folks are left w/ no power to stay safe & warm. This is a perfect example of the need fo… https://t.co/Tktn0F89t4</div> — Steve Daines (@Steve Daines)<a href="https://twitter.com/SteveDaines/statuses/1361711788493074432">1613492364.0</a></blockquote></div><p>According to The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which represents 90 percent of the state's electric load, wind turbine outages were responsible for less than 13 percent of Texas' lost generation. The majority of the power outages can instead be attributed to <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/coal" target="_blank">coal</a> and gas, a local news outlet <a href="https://www.kxan.com/news/texas/are-frozen-wind-turbines-to-blame-for-texas-power-outages/" target="_blank">reported</a>.</p><p>The Montana senator's tweet included a viral image of a helicopter spraying liquid to defrost a frozen wind turbine. According to the image's caption, fossil fuels powered the helicopter while the liquid it sprayed contained them. "Keep that in mind when thinking how 'green' windmills are," <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenboebert/status/1361664647661780992" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Rep. Lauren Boebert</a> from Colorado tweeted, gaining thousands of retweets, <a href="https://earther.gizmodo.com/viral-image-claiming-to-show-a-helicopter-de-icing-texa-1846279287" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Earther reported</a>. This same image has been <a href="https://twitter.com/lukelegate/status/1361149723072208896" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">shared</a> by Luke Legate, a prominent oil and gas consultant, Earther added, although it is misleading. </p><p>While helicopters are used to defrost wind turbines, the image is from Sweden in 2014, not present-day Texas, said Brian Kahn, managing editor of Earther. The photo is originally from a Swedish study on de-icing wind turbines using hot water. Now the image is being used "to argue against clean energy in the U.S," Kahn wrote. "It's a rather silly claim."</p><p>Wind turbines in Texas did indeed fail during the frigid winter temperatures, losing about 4.5 gigawatts of capacity according to The New York Times. But as of Monday afternoon, 26 of the 34 gigawatts of ERCOT's grid that went offline were from thermal sources such as gas and coal, <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/161386/conservatives-wind-turbines-killing-people-texas-blackouts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The New Republic reported</a>. </p>
By John Rogers
The Polar Vortex hitting much of the US has wreaked havoc not just on roadways and airports, but also on our electricity systems, as plenty are experiencing first-hand right now. Households, institutions, and communities across the region — and friends and family members — have been hit by power outages, and all that comes with them.
1. Restoring power (safely) is Job 1.<p>First: Some things about all this we won't know until we have the benefit of a few days — or months — of hindsight, and data. But one thing we do know right now is that electricity, which we so often take for granted, is crucial to so many aspects of our lives.</p><p>For some, power outages are an inconvenience. For others, they're <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/julie-mcnamara/hurricane-irma-power-outage" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">life-threatening</a>. So keeping the power flowing, or getting it back up as quickly as possible, is key. Grid operators need to avoid affecting vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure as much as possible when they're implementing rolling blackouts, and need to prioritize them when they're restoring service.</p><p>While all confronting power outages or near misses are indebted to those working around the clock to keep things from getting worse, keeping crews safe is also key. Weather like this, combined with the ongoing pandemic, sure doesn't make for the easiest working conditions, so utilities and grid operators will need to use really solid judgement about where they can safely focus people, and when, for any needed repairs.</p>
2. The power outages are about both supply and demand.<p>Utilities and grid operators have been hit by the double whammies of unprecedented demand and big challenges on the supply side. On the demand side, for example, Texas on Valentine's Day <a href="https://twitter.com/ERCOT_ISO/status/1361142665140711427" target="_blank">shattered</a> its previous winter peak record by almost 5%. The peak was 11,000 MW above what ERCOT, Texas's electric grid operator, was projecting and planning for as of November — some 15-20 good-sized power plants' worth.</p><p>And on the supply side, power lines taken out by the weather are a piece of it, as you'd expect. But it also turns out that all kinds of power plants have gone offline, for a range of reasons. Take natural gas, for example:</p>
3. Natural gas plants have been hit hard.<p>Gas plants suffer from their own supply-and-demand issues. One piece of it is the fact that the same gas that supplies them is also needed for heating homes and businesses. And if a power plant doesn't have firm contracts to get gas when it needs it, the way gas utilities would, the power plant loses out. The laws of physics may also be coming into play, as any moisture in the gas lines succumbs to the extreme cold and gums up the works—valves, for instance.</p><p>And indeed, initial indications are that a lot of the lost capacity is natural gas-fired. Data from Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the grid operator for much of the Great Plains, <a href="https://marketplace.spp.org/pages/capacity-of-generation-on-outage#%2F2021%2F02" target="_blank">show</a> that 70% of its "outaged" megawatts (MW) were natural gas plants.</p><p>ERCOT, which is powered primarily by natural gas and wind, was <a href="http://www.ercot.com/news/releases/show/225210" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warning</a> yesterday that "Extreme weather conditions caused many generating units — across fuel types — to trip offline and become unavailable." It <a href="https://twitter.com/Sonalcpatel/status/1361365934204674053" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">clarified</a> elsewhere, though, that the majority of the capacity it had lost overnight was "thermal generators, like generation fueled by gas, coal, or nuclear". In all, Texas was out <a href="https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Wholesale-power-prices-spiking-across-Texas-15951684.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more than a third</a> of its total capacity.</p>
4. Don’t think an “all of the above” strategy would have saved the day.<p>As ERCOT's messages suggests, this isn't just a gas issue, and these last few days should in no way be fodder for the type of fact-free "all of the above" pushes <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/jeremy-richardson/rick-perry-rejects-facts-in-favor-of-coal-and-nuclear-bailouts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">favored</a> by the prior administration.</p><p>For example, many power plants, including all nuclear plants, virtually all coal plants, and a lot of natural gas plants, depend on <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/water-power-plant-cooling" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">water to cool the steam</a> that drives the electricity-producing turbines. Any power plant dependent on cooling water will run into trouble if that cooling water is actually frozen solid. And they can have their own troubles with fuel availability during extreme cold.</p><p>(While we're on the subject of fossil fuels: Note that the extreme weather has also <a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2021/02/16/stories/1063725119" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hit oil production</a>, with the Permian basin, for example, down an estimated 1 million barrels a day.)</p>
5. Wind turbines can be winterized (but Texas…?).<p>Wind turbines aren't immune to extreme cold, and initial reports show that they, too, have been hit by this wave. In SPP, wind was the <a href="https://spp.org/newsroom/press-releases/spp-becomes-first-regional-grid-operator-with-wind-as-no-1-annual-fuel-source-considers-electric-storage-participation-in-markets-approves-2021-transmission-plan/" target="_blank">#1 source</a> of electricity last year, and initial data from yesterday suggested it accounted for almost a fifth of the capacity taken offline.</p><p>ERCOT also mentions wind turbines going offline; one source <a href="https://twitter.com/Sonalcpatel/status/1361357248988143620" target="_blank">suggests</a> 4,000 MW of wind was offline yesterday morning, compared with 26,000 MW of downed thermal capacity (mostly gas). Wind is ERCOT's second-largest supplier of power, accounting for 23% of its electricity last year (from a nation-leading <a href="https://cleanpower.org/resources/american-clean-power-market-report-q4-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">33,000 MW</a>).</p><p>But wind farms going offline appears to be a <a href="https://finance.yahoo.com/news/frozen-wind-farms-just-small-002954294.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">much smaller piece</a> of the picture than detractors will suggest. And wind power has played an important role in keeping the lights on in past extreme cold events (remember the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wind-power-bomb-cyclone-2554824592.html" target="_self">Bomb Cyclone</a>?). They can also be at least partially winter-proofed — by hardening the control systems, using the right fluids, and de-icing the blades. But if you don't see weather like this coming…</p>
6. We need to be ready for more extreme weather.<p>And that's one of the lessons to learn from this episode, once we get beyond the immediacy of it all: Past performance is no indication of what's going to be coming at us. We know that climate change is bringing not just overall warming, but also <a href="https://ucsusa.org/resources/does-cold-weather-disprove-climate-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more extremes at <em>both</em> ends</a>. We also know that there are all kinds of ways that <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/power-failure" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">climate change affects our ability to keep the lights on</a>.</p><p>So we need to be ready, or readier, for situations like this. And it turns out that there are <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/julie-mcnamara/noreaster-power-grid" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a lot of ways</a> we can be. Stronger transmission links can <a href="https://mailchi.mp/acore/acore-statement-on-heartland-power-outages?e=a4ae549508" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">allow regions to back each other up</a> when they aren't all facing the same challenges at the same time. A diversity of (clean) power options can mean some might be available even when others aren't. (ERCOT anticipated yesterday morning being able to reconnect customers later that day in part because of "additional wind & solar output".)</p><p>We also <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/julie-mcnamara/one-way-to-boost-renewables-let-flexible-demand-lend-a-helping-hand" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">don't have to take electricity demand</a> as a fixed, can't-do-anything-about-it quantity. Utilities (including mine, a few days ago) called on customers to <a href="http://www.ercot.com/news/releases/show/225151" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">be as efficient as possible</a> to get us past the latest crunches. Programs put in place ahead of time can reward customers for delaying or shifting their electricity use.</p><p>And energy storage can be an important middleperson between supply and demand, from the large scale all the way down to battery packs in our garages and basements.</p>
Getting through this, and beyond<p>Right now, the task is getting the power back on. Longer term, the goal shouldn't be about ensuring 100% reliability (because of the prohibitive cost of removing that last fraction of a fraction of a possibility of a blackout), but to make them as infrequent and as limited in duration as possible. It should, though, be about making sure we make <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/lights-out" target="_blank">decisions</a> that serve us well in the short term and, in the face of climate change, in the long term.</p><p>Blackouts will happen; that doesn't mean we're powerless against them. The need is there, but so are the tools.</p><p><em><a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/author/john-rogers" target="_blank">John Rogers</a> is a senior energy analyst with expertise in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and policies.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from the <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/john-rogers/polar-vortex-power-outages-6-things-to-know-about-supply-demand-and-our-electricity-future" target="_blank">Union of Concerned Scientists</a>. </em></p>
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By Andrea Germanos
A group of more than 500 international scientists on Thursday urged world leaders to end policies that prop up the burning of trees for energy because it poses "a double climate problem" that threatens forests' biodiversity and efforts to stem the planet's ecological emergency.
Denmark approved plans on Thursday to construct an artificial island in the North Sea and use it as clean energy hub.
By Mark McCord
- An academic paper suggests key tipping points can significantly reduce carbon emissions, which would help to slow global warming.
- Government policies are making coal uneconomical.
- Electric vehicle pricing structures have helped reduce the number of petrol and diesel cars on the world's roads.
There may be light at the end of the tunnel in the battle to reduce carbon emissions.
Towards the Paris Agreement Targets<p>Such tipping points are hoped to help the world meet the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which 196 heads of state agreed to reduce global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with a preferred target of 1.5 degrees. Were they achieved, experts say the positive impacts would be <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/12/emissions-paris-agreement-two-decades-climate-change-global-warming/" target="_blank">felt within two decades</a>.</p><p>The accord strives for a climate-neutral world by the middle of this century. It's expected to be built upon at the United Nations Climate Change conference, or COP26, which is due to take place in November. The World Economic Forum's <a href="https://www.weforum.org/our-impact/accelerating-climate-action" target="_blank">Climate Initiative</a> strives also to offer globally linked solutions.</p><p>The report in Climate Policy explains how a combination of factors led to the tipping point that prompted the UK to decarbonize its power industry. They included the creation of a carbon tax, an EU scheme that made gas cheaper than coal and an investment strategy for renewable energy that made coal less economical.</p><p>"The power sector needs to decarbonize four times faster than its current rate, and the pace of the transition to zero-emission vehicles needs to double," Lenton said.</p><p>"Many people are questioning whether this is achievable. But hope lies in the way that tipping points can spark rapid change through complex systems."</p><img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1Njk2MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTA0MzY2MH0.aeowRd-sEX7nd5xnijsCNTSSekAtpS3wpEN46KVIPMU/img.png?width=980" id="87cc2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="92b9fbb9ef86f4f9154ecd20fe0d6477" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1008" data-height="1132" />
Wind and solar accounted for a third of the UK's energy generation in 2020. Statista
Positive Tipping Points<p>Besides the UK, the authors of the paper cited Norway as an example of the nations that have acted to reduce greenhouse gases pumped out by motor vehicles.</p><p>Through government incentives, new electric vehicles (EV) in Norway are priced similarly to petrol and diesel cars. This has <a href="https://www.exeter.ac.uk/research/news/articles/positivetippingpointsoffe.html" target="_blank">boosted sales of EVs to more than 50% of new car purchases, compared with 2%-3% worldwide</a>.</p><p>China, the European Union (EU) and California are responsible for half of global car sales. Professor Lenton suggests that if they formed an international effort to redirect investment from conventional cars to EVs they could reduce costs, boost production and create a broader tipping point that would accelerate the reduction of fossil fuel use.</p><p>Lenton argues that if government action can lower the cost of financing renewables to below that of excavating coal, industries linked to transport, heating and power could all rapidly decarbonize.</p><p>That's good news because a new, more urgent, approach is needed to reduce the rate at which the global climate is warming, according to scientists.</p>
2020 and 2016 Hottest Years on Record<p>Earlier this month, the <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/climate-change-temperature/2020-ties-with-2016-as-worlds-hottest-year-on-record-eu-climate-change-service-says-idUSL1N2JI1YT" target="_blank">EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service said 2020 had equaled 2016 as the hottest year on record</a>.</p><p>A study published in Climate Dynamics said <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/01/global-warming-threshold-reached-by-2027/" target="_blank">the planet could breach the threshold for global warming between 2027 and 2042</a>, a decade earlier than previously thought.</p><p>"If either of these efforts – in power or road transport – succeed, the most important effect could be to tip perceptions of the potential for international cooperation to tackle climate change," Lenton said.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from the </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/01/climate-change-carbon-emissions-global-warming/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></p>
When wind turbine blades reach the end of their usefulness, most are sawed into transportable pieces and hauled to landfills, where they never break down. Because of the resources and energy that go into producing these blades, this type of disposal is inefficient and wasteful. Recently, several innovative companies have begun brainstorming better ways to repurpose this green technology after it goes offline.
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By Tara Lohan
A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.
Threats to Birds<p>One of the gravest threats facing birds is climate change, according to Audubon, which found that rising temperatures threaten <a href="https://www.audubon.org/2019climateissue" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nearly two-thirds of North America's bird species</a>. That's why the impending development of offshore wind is a good thing, says Shilo Felton, a field manager in the organization's Clean Energy Initiative, but it also comes with dangers to birds that need to be better studied and mitigated.</p><p>The most obvious risk comes from birds colliding with spinning turbine blades. But offshore wind developments can also displace birds from foraging or roost sites, as well as migratory pathways.</p><p>Along the Atlantic Coast four imperiled species are of top concern to conservationists: the endangered piping plover, red knot, roseate tern and black-capped petrel, which is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.</p><p>"Those four species are of utmost importance to make sure that we understand the impacts," says Felton. "But beyond that there are many species that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act that could potentially see more impacts from offshore wind."</p><p>Northern gannets, for example, are at risk not just for collision but <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308703197_Possible_impacts_of_offshore_wind_farms_on_seabirds_a_pilot_study_in_Northern_Gannets_in_the_southern_North_Sea" target="_blank">habitat displacement</a>.</p>
A northern gannet flying along Cape May, N.J. Ann Marie Morrison / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>"There's <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320716303196" target="_blank">some evidence</a> that they just won't use areas where turbines are, but that also excludes them from key foraging areas," says Felton. Researchers are still studying what this may mean for the birds. But a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0141113620305304" target="_blank">study</a> published in December 2020 conducted at Bass Rock, Scotland — home to the world's largest northern gannet colony — found that wind developments could reduce their growth rate, though not enough to cause a population decline.</p><p>Other birds, such as great cormorants and European shags, are <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320716303196" target="_blank">attracted to wind developments</a> and use the infrastructure to rest while opening up new foraging areas farther from shore.</p><p>"There's plenty of potential for a bird to use a wind farm and still to avoid the turbines themselves," says Felton.</p><p>Birds like pelicans, however, are less versatile in their movements and are at particular risk of collision because of their flight pattern, she says.</p><p>But how disruptive or dangerous offshore turbines will be along the East Coast isn't yet known.</p><p>Federal and state agencies, along with nongovernmental organizations, says Felton, have done good research to try to better understand those potential impacts. "But these are all theoretical, because we don't have a lot of offshore wind yet in the United States."</p>
Threats to Ocean Life<p>Birds aren't the only wildlife of concern. More development in ocean waters could affect a litany of marine species, some of which are already facing other pressures from overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction and climate change.</p><p>Scientists have found that marine mammals like whales and dolphins could be disturbed by the jarring sounds of construction, especially if pile driving is used to hammer the steel turbine platform into the seafloor.</p><p>The noises, though short-lived, could impede communication between animals, divert them from migration routes or cause them to seek less suitable areas for feeding or breeding. Research from Europe found that harbor porpoises, seals and dolphins may avoid development areas during construction. In most, but <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/045101" target="_blank">not all cases</a>, the animals were believed to have returned to the area following construction.</p><p>The biggest concern for conservation groups in the United States is the critically endangered North American right whale. There are fewer than 400 remaining, and the species' habitat overlaps with a number of planned wind development areas along the East Coast.</p><p>"Offshore wind is in no way the cause of the challenges the whales face, but it's going to be another pressure point," says John Rogers, senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.</p><p>Researchers aren't sure how right whales will respond to the noise from pile driving.</p><p>"But we are concerned, based on what we know about how whales react to other noise sources, that they may avoid [wind development] areas," says Kershaw.</p><p>And if that displacement causes them to miss out on important food resources, it could be dangerous for a species already on the brink.</p><p>There are a few other potential threats, too.</p><p>Ships associated with the development — more plentiful during construction — also pose a danger. In the past few years cargo ships, fishing boats and other vessels have caused half of all deaths of North Atlantic right whales.</p>
A juvenile right whale breaches against the backdrop of a ship near the St. Johns River entrance. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission / NOAA Research Permit #775-1600-10<p>And after construction, the noise from the spinning turbines will be present in the water at low decibels. "We don't quite know how the great whales will react to those sounds," says Jeremy Firestone, the director of the Center for Research in Wind at the University of Delaware.</p><p>Other marine mammals may also perceive the noise, but at low decibels it's unlikely to be an impediment, <a href="http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v309/p279-295/" target="_blank">research has found</a>.</p><p>And it's possible that wind development could help some ocean life. Turbine foundations can attract fish and invertebrates for whom hard substrates create habitat complexity — known as the "reef effect," according to researchers from the University of Rhode Island's <a href="https://dosits.org/animals/effects-of-sound/anthropogenic-sources/wind-turbine/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Discovery of Sound in the Sea</a> program. Exclusion of commercial fishing nearby may also help shelter fish and protect marine mammals from entanglements in fishing gear.</p>
Ensuring Safe Development<p>Despite the potential dangers, researchers have gathered a few best practices to help diminish and possibly eliminate some risks.</p><p>When it comes to ship strikes, the easiest thing is to slow boats down, mandating a speed of <a href="https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/vessel-speed-limits-sought-protect-endangered-north-atlantic-right-whales-2020-08-06/" target="_blank">10 knots</a> in wind development areas, and using visual and acoustic monitoring for whales.</p><p>Adjusting operations to reduce boat trips between the shore and the wind development will also help. A new series of service operating vessels can allow maintenance staff to spent multiple days onsite, says Kershaw, cutting down on boat traffic.</p><p>For construction noise concerns, developers can avoid pile driving during times of the year when whales are present. And, depending on the marine environment, developers could use "quiet foundations" that don't require pile driving. These include gravity-based or suction caisson platforms.</p><p>Floating turbines are also used in deep water, where they're effectively anchored in place — although that poses its own potential danger. "We have concerns that marine debris could potentially become entangled around the mooring cables of the floating arrays and pose a secondarily entanglement risk to some species," says Felton, who thinks more research should be conducted before those become operational in U.S. waters — a process that's already underway in Maine, where a <a href="https://composites.umaine.edu/2020/08/05/diamond-offshore-wind-rwe-renewables-join-the-university-of-maine-to-lead-development-of-maine-floating-offshore-wind-demonstration-project/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">demonstration project is being built</a>.</p><p>If loud noises are unavoidable during construction, noise-reducing technologies such as bubble curtains can help dampen the sound. And scheduling adjacent projects to conduct similar work at the same time could limit the duration of disturbances.</p>
The foundation installation of the off shore wind farm Sandbank using a bubble curtain. Vattenfall / Ulrich Wirrwa / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>Once turbines become operational, reducing the amount of light on wind platforms or using flashing lights could help deter some seabirds, NRDC <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/harnessing-wind-advance-wind-power-offshore-ib.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers reported</a>. And scientists are exploring using ultrasonic noises and ultraviolet lighting to keep bats away. "Feathering," or shutting down the turbine blades during key migration times, could also help prevent fatalities.</p><p>"We need to make sure that offshore wind is the best steward it can be of the marine ecosystem, because we want and expect it to be a significant part of the clean energy picture in some parts of the country," says Rogers. "We also have to recognize that we're going to learn by doing, and that some of these things we're going to figure out best once we have more turbines in the water."</p><p>That's why environmental groups say it's important to establish baseline information on species before projects begin, and then require developers to conduct monitoring during construction and for years after projects are operational.</p><p>Employing an "adaptive management framework" will ensure that developers can adjust their management practices as they go when new information becomes available, and that those best practices are incorporated into the requirements for future projects.</p>
Putting Research Into Action<p>Advancing these conversations at the federal level during the Trump administration, though, has been slow going.</p><p>"We didn't really have any productive discussions with the administration in the last four years," says Kershaw.</p><p>And when it comes to birds, Felton says the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's recently completed "draft cumulative environmental impact statement" covering offshore wind developments had a lot of good environmental research, but little focus on birds.</p><p>"Part of that comes from the current administration's interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act," she says.</p><p>President Trump has been hostile to both wind energy <em>and</em> birds, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/05/climate/trump-migratory-bird-protections.html" target="_blank">and finished gutting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act</a> in his administration's the final days, removing penalties for companies whose operations kill migratory birds.</p><p>There's hope that the Biden administration will take a different approach. But where the federal government has been lacking lately, Kershaw says, they've seen states step up.</p><p>New York, for example, has established an <a href="https://www.nyetwg.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Technical Working Group</a> composed of stakeholders to advise on environmentally responsible development of offshore wind.</p><p>The group is led by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, but it isn't limited to the Empire State. It's regional in focus and includes representatives from wind developers with leases between Massachusetts and North Carolina; state agencies from Massachusetts to Virginia; federal agencies; and science-based environmental NGOs.</p><p>New York's latest solicitation for clean energy projects includes up to 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind and <a href="https://www.nyetwg.com/announcements" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">requires developers</a> to contribute at least $10,000 per megawatt for regional monitoring of fisheries and other wildlife.</p><p>Environmental groups have also worked directly with developers, including an agreement with Vineyard Wind — an 800-megawatt project off the Massachusetts coast that could be the first utility-scale wind development in federal waters — to help protect North Atlantic right whales.</p><p>The agreement includes no pile driving from Jan. 1 to April 30, ceasing activities at other times when whales are visually or acoustically identified in the area, speed restrictions on vessels, and the use of noise reduction technology, such as a bubble curtain during pile driving.</p><p>"The developers signed the agreement with us, and then they incorporated, most, if not all of those measures into the federal permitting documents," says Kershaw. "The developers really did a lot of bottom up work to make sure that they were being very protective of right whales."</p><p>Environmental groups are in talks with other developers on agreements too, but Felton wants to see best practices being mandated at the federal level.</p><p>"It's the sort of a role that should be being played by the federal government, and without that it makes the permitting and regulation process less stable and less transparent," she says." And that in turn slows down the build out of projects, which is also bad for birds because it doesn't help us address and mitigate for climate change."</p><p>Kershaw agrees there's a lot more work to be done, especially at the federal level, but thinks we're moving in the right direction.</p><p>"I think the work that's been done so far in the United States has really laid the groundwork for advancing this in the right way and in a way that's protective of species and the environment," she says. "At the same time, it's important that offshore wind does advance quickly. We really need it to help us combat the worst effects of climate change."</p><p><em><a href="https://therevelator.org/author/taralohan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tara Lohan</a> is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.</em></p><p><em style="">Reposted with permission from <a href="https://therevelator.org/offshore-wind-wildlife" target="_blank" style="">The Revelator</a>. </em></p>
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