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Avian Issues for Offshore Wind Development

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Wind energy is the fastest growing source of electricity in the U. S., and the energy potential in the offshore environment is enormous. Environmental concerns have focused on effects on birds, and in this paper we briefly review these effects in the context of methods for assessing preconstruction risk and postconstruction impact. Federal statutes and legislation, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Energy Act of 2005, the Endangered Species Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty will require that prospective developers conduct some form of avian risk assessment prior to construction. Such preconstruction studies should utilize a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) design.

Offshore wind farms pose three primary threats to birds: barrier effects due to flight avoidance, habitat loss (due to displacement), and fatalities resulting from collisions with turbine blades. All have been demonstrated at land-based and coastal wind farms, and flight avoidance and shifts in habitat use have been demonstrated in the offshore environment for a limited number of species in Europe. The additive effect of these impacts to bird populations may be trivial under current levels of development, but could become ecologically significant as offshore installations increase as projected.

Interpreting the ecological significance of these effects requires additional research, especially on understanding the importance of winter foraging habitat and population delineation, particularly for waterfowl. Such research and preconstruction studies will be expensive, and we suggest public funding of these efforts and private-public partnerships as is currently underway in some states.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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