Science News

BOEM Measuring Environmental Effects of Offshore Wind Turbine Construction

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has begun a new study to conduct real-time, independent observations and data collection during construction of offshore wind turbines.

Field work took place in August and September of this year through the Real-time Opportunity for Development Environmental Observations study, or RODEO, which is taking direct measurements of visual effects, sound produced by various activities, and seafloor disturbances caused by cabling or anchoring. It is also evaluating different types of monitoring equipment.

Beginning with Rhode Island's Block Island project, the study will be ongoing during the next five years and will take measurements from projects as they come online. Field work at future projects may include evaluation of air emissions and testing of mitigation measures. These monitoring efforts could take place in state or federal waters.

RODEO offers a new opportunity to learn from data gathered from actual construction instead of best-guess scenarios, and will help BOEM establish realistic mitigation measures that reduce or eliminate impacts. The offshore wind energy industry will benefit by having appropriate mitigation measures based on real data to ensure the marine environment is protected in a cost-effective manner.

For offshore wind development, there is no previous experience in the United States, so the analyses and subsequent mitigation measures are based on the best available science. Future analyses will benefit from real-time, independent observations during actual construction activities. For example, the extent of disturbance on the seafloor from anchors may be estimated to encompass a larger area than actually occurs. Recovery from the disturbance may occur in less than a year or may take longer. Vessels may use dynamic positioning, resulting in no disturbance from anchoring.

The first component completed for this study was development of a field plan for measurements at the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) during the installation of the foundations. The second task involves the testing of scour monitoring equipment on one foundation at BIWF for up to one year.

The third task has researchers recording activities as they occur, monitoring sound in air and water during pile driving, and evaluating scour from anchors and other bottom disturbing activities.

For more information about BOEM's Renewable Energy Program and related studies, click here.

Learn more about BOEM's Environmental Studies Program, which funds and manages rigorous scientific research to inform policy decisions regarding the development of energy and mineral resources on the Outer Continental Shelf.

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