The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities yesterday announced nearly $2 million in additional funding for efforts to ensure the safe and ecologically responsible development of offshore wind energy.
Opponents of offshore wind development are claiming that the recent deaths of whales, dolphins and other marine animals are the result of the industry’s development. Meanwhile, government officials at both the state and federal levels have said there is no evidence that offshore wind energy development is to blame.
Projects funded through the state’s Offshore Wind Research & Monitoring Initiative (RMI) include deployment of a whale detection buoy, a study to evaluate general species diversity in offshore wind development areas, and another to better understand offshore movement of harbor seals. Funding is also being provided for New Jersey’s entry into the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance (ROSA), a nonprofit organization leading a collaborative effort advancing fish and fisheries research related to offshore wind.
“Development of offshore wind energy is a vital component of the Murphy Administration’s work to mitigate and respond to the worsening impacts of climate change,” said Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette. “These projects will continue to advance the collection of baseline scientific information that will help ensure the responsible development and operation of offshore wind facilities that protect our coastline and its natural resources.”
“We are deeply committed to doing all we can to ensure our offshore wind projects are implemented in as ecologically responsible a way as possible,” said NJBPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso. “We are excited about the new RMI grants and their ability to assist us in protecting the environment as we move forward to reach Governor Murphy’s goal of 11 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2040.”
The RMI is a collaborative effort of the DEP and BPU to coordinate research on potential impacts of offshore wind energy development and builds upon extensive work in this area by federal partners, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
As part of the BPU’s second wind energy solicitation, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, LLC, and Ocean Wind II, LLC committed $10,000 per megawatt of project-nameplate capacity awarded – a total of about $26 million – to fund regional research and ecological monitoring. To date, RMI has provided $8.5 million in funding for offshore wind-related projects.
The awards being announced today include:
In addition, RMI has issued an updated Request for Proposal to deploy archival passive acoustic monitoring equipment to better understand the distribution and habitat use of baleen whale species, including the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, in the waters along New Jersey’s coastline. This project will be part of a larger effort that includes collaboration with nearby state, regional, and federal entities seeking to protect marine mammals as offshore wind farms are developed along the eastern seaboard. The updated RFP will leverage funding towards a greater number of listening devices, prioritizing detection coverage. A future solicitation will be created for regional spatial analyses of whale movement and distribution patterns.
RMI projects are selected to address the short-term highest priority research needs, which were identified and based on input gathered from subject matter experts, stakeholders including a variety of state, federal, fishing industry, and environmental organizations, and the New Jersey Environmental Resources Offshore Wind Working Group.
Providing funding for these projects demonstrates New Jersey’s commitment to regional cooperation and will provide important baseline data needed for future assessments of changes to our natural resources resulting from wind farm construction, operation, and decommissioning.
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