Vineyard Wind to give whales way over windfarm build

Eubalaena glacialis with calf (Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Vineyard Wind and the Natural Resources Defence Council, the US National Wildlife Federation, and Conservation Law Foundation today entered into an agreement to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and allow for normal feeding, breeding, and migratory behaviours as well as prevent injury.

Under the agreement, Vineyard Wind will institute a variety of protective measures, such as no pile driving until April, to keep the whales safe while installing and operating turbines at its proposed 84-turbine project off the coast of Massachusetts, US. Barely 400 right whales remain on the planet. For decades, the North Atlantic right whale has been harmed by many existing marine uses, including entanglement with fishing gear and vessel collisions.

Turbine construction will be curtailed in winter and early spring when the North Atlantic right whales may be in the area, and there will be comprehensive monitoring to ensure that construction does not take place when the whales are near the site. Vineyard Wind will dampen construction noise that disturbs the whales’ ability to communicate, find food, and stay on their migratory path. The agreement also includes strict vessel speed limits.

This agreement comes at a pivotal moment: After nearly 30 years of commercial advancement in Europe, US offshore wind development is poised to surge over the next decade. While only five offshore wind turbines are operating now on this side of the Atlantic, states are mobilising to bring offshore wind power online. Collectively, these states have committed to develop 15 GW of offshore wind power, enough to provide clean, renewable power for five million homes.

When complete, the Vineyard Wind facility will consist of more than 80 turbines capable of generating 800 MW of electricity, enough power for more than 400,000 homes.