Do Offshore Wind Turbines Impact Fishing?

Offshore wind seems poised to set sail on U.S. coasts. According to the Department of Energy, the burgeoning electricity source has the potential to generate more than 2,000 gigawatts (GW) of capacity per year—nearly double the nation’s current electricity use. Last fall, the Interior Department announced the commencement of construction on the nation’s first commercial scale wind farm, 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard, and approved a deal for the second off Rhode Island. The Biden administration aspires to launch 16 such sites by 2025 and generate 30 GW of energy by 2030. But what impact will all the construction have on wildlife and fishing? A 10-year, $11 million U.S. Wind and University of Maryland study aims to find out.

Wind is the fastest growing energy source in the U.S., providing 42 percent of the country’s new energy in 2020. So far, most of that has come from land-based wind turbines. But, faster and steadier offshore wind speeds offer more potential. And as the cost of efficiently harnessing offshore wind has plummeted, that potential has soared.

But the hubs of the newest and most efficient offshore wind turbines extend nearly 300 feet in the air and their ocean-bottom foundations reach an average depth of 165 feet. U.S. Wind, based in Baltimore, will partner with the University of Maryland to study how these massive structures, and their construction, will impact marine mammals, fish, and birds.

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