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A “Win-Win” for Wind Power, Whales Off MA Coast

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Wind turbines off Denmark's coast. Photo courtesy NWF
Wind turbines off Denmark's coast. Photo courtesy NWF
December 17, 2012

BOSTON - The Obama administration has announced funding for seven projects that will speed up the development of the nation's first offshore wind farms. Meanwhile, environmental groups have reached agreement with developers on how to protect critically-endangered North Atlantic right whales.

It's not the wind towers themselves planned off the coast of New England that could threaten the whales. It's the site surveys and advance work that comes first. Catherine Bowes of the National Wildlife Federation says an agreement between three major environmental groups and three wind-energy developers will ensure that the work will be done without disrupting the whales and their migratory behavior.

"It's a win-win. We really feel like this agreement is a win for the whales and a win for the climate."

She says the benefits for wildlife in general of non-polluting, renewable energy were the motivation that brought together environmentalists and industry. And, for their part, the developers say they have a shared objective.

Mark Rodgers of Energy Management, the firm behind the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, says the agreement matches their commitment to developing wind energy in a responsible way.

"And offshore wind does that by making a lot of energy without creating any air pollution. But we also need to be good neighbors to the wildlife in the immediate area. This is a measure to try to help do that."

The Cape Wind project is in an area where right whales have seldom, if ever, been spotted. Catherine Bowes says the other projects, slated for farther out in the Atlantic, will now be looking to avoid doing the advance work while whales are migrating.

"Reducing co-occurence with the whales. So making sure that when those activities are happening out there it's at times when we do not expect the whales to be in the areas."

In Washington, The Department of Energy said funding of up to $168 million over six years will advance the creation of America's first offshore wind farms. Worldwide, twelve countries have working offshore wind energy installations. America has none so far.




Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA