Marine Environment FAQs

What is SouthCoast Wind doing to protect marine life and the marine environment?

Protecting marine life and the marine environment is a critical aspect of our project.

The project team is working closely with local communities, partner organizations, and other members of the OSW industry to ensure that the development of offshore wind energy will avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse impacts to our marine wildlife and to coastal communities and livelihoods.

SouthCoast Wind is following a rigorous federal permitting process and incorporating key mitigation measures to minimize conflicts with marine life, including the use of trained protected species observers (PSOs) on our vessels.

What methodologies and technologies will be used to protect marine mammals and other protected species such as the North Atlantic Right Whale?

SouthCoast Wind shares the concerns regarding the NARW population and is actively prioritizing the protection of this critically endangered species along with other marine mammal species.

SouthCoast Wind is continuing with its geotechnical investigations to collect data and assess the soil properties at each foundation location. This assessment will assist in determining the exact number and location of the WTG/OSP positions which are or are not feasible for use.

Regardless of the NEPA Alternative selected by BOEM, in an effort to minimize impacts to NARWs and other marine mammals, SouthCoast Wind has committed to the following measures. These are in addition to those presented in Table G-1 of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)

  • Employing the use of Protected Species Observers on our survey and installation vessels, to maintain a constant lookout for any marine mammals and other sea life. We also offer programs to train new PSOs and will also employ them during site characterization surveys, construction, and operations. During construction, SouthCoast Wind will have 4-6 PSOs on all installation vessels.
  • Meeting all guidelines for slow zones, including Dynamic Management Areas and Seasonal Management Areas. Project vessels will be required to follow all regulations regarding slow zones when NARW and other protected species are in the area.
  • No pile driving in the lease area January – April.
  • Pile driving within the BOEM-proposed Enhanced Mitigation Area in the northern portion of the Lease Area will only be conducted from June 1 – October 31 when NARW presence is at its lowest.
  • To minimize potential impacts on zooplankton, SouthCoast Wind will site the HVDC converter stations outside the BOEM-proposed Enhanced Mitigation Area of the Lease Area
  • Only monopile or piled jacket foundations will be installed within the BOEM-proposed Enhanced Mitigation Area, which will minimize the overall structure impact on benthic prey species.
  • Specific monitoring tools and plans will be developed and may include the use of advanced infrared systems, real-time passive acoustic monitoring, autonomous underwater vehicles, or other advanced technologies that could improve the probability of real-time detection of marine mammals.

As we move forward with our project, we will continue working with BOEM, NMFS, and other relevant stakeholders on the appropriate permit authorizations and protection of the NARW and marine mammals.

How is SouthCoast Wind monitoring for endangered marine life?

We employ the use of Protected Species Observers on our survey and installation vessels, who maintain a constant lookout for any marine mammals and other sea life. Their role is to monitor for the presence of protected species, and to implement mitigation measures where needed to ensure the animals are not impacted by marine activities. The PSO works closely with the vessel crew to implement these mitigation measures, and also keeps watch for protected species during vessel transit to avoid potential vessel strikes.

What research is SouthCoast Wind supporting to help protect endangered marine species?

We support the New England Aquarium and INSPIRE Environmental’s research to study the movements of highly migratory fish species (sharks, tunas, and marlins) in and around the SouthCoast Wind federal offshore lease area as well as the recreational fishery for these species.

By funding this research, SouthCoast Wind can help to better understand the distributions, densities, and movements of these species, where recreational fishing is occurring, and how these dynamics may interplay with offshore wind development. The other New England offshore wind lease owners are also funding this research, representing a unique collaboration to study species that move at scales larger than any one developer’s lease area.

What are the effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) on fish species?

BOEM has completed several studies related to understanding the effect of EMF on fish species. Electric fields arising from the export cables will be completely shielded by the cable materials. Magnetic fields at the seafloor or ground surface will be further reduced by cable burial (beneath the seabed or in a duct bank underground).

To date, effects on representative sensitive species indicate that while some marine species are observed to respond to EMF, the responses have not risen to the level of being detrimental to any species.

  • A January 2020 BOEM fact sheet, Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) & Marine Life discusses how naturally occurring EMF are present everywhere in the oceans. Undersea cables used for power transfer are known sources of EMF, but telecommunication cables and undersea communication cables also generate alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) EMF.
  • In 2016, BOEM completed a study titled “Renewable Energy in situ Power Cable Observation” that evaluated species densities along electrified and non-electrified undersea power cables off the California coast. The report concluded that there was no observable difference between the two cables.
  • In 2011, BOEM completed the study “Effects of EMFs from Undersea Power Cables on Elasmobranchs (Sharks and Rays) and Other Marine Species.” This study researched potential ecological effects of EMFs emitted by sub-sea power transmission cables, suggested solutions that reduce EMF exposure, and identified data gaps and future research priorities.

Additional Information & Resources

NOAA: Information about Offshore Wind and Whales

BOEM: Offshore Wind Activities and Marine Mammal Protection FAQ