CT study will examine relationship of new offshore wind farm on marine ecosystems
New local fisheries research will look into the impacts of Connecticut’s first offshore wind farm on marine ecosystems in southern New England waters.
Scientists with UConn Avery Point will spend the next two years examining how Revolution Wind, located about 30 miles from Connecticut’s coast, would affect marine habitats and food chains.
On Nov. 20, project developers – Eversource and Ørsted – got final approval for construction of the wind farm, which is expected to power up more than 300,000 homes in Connecticut and Rhode Island in 2025.
The UConn team is in early stages of the study, and will begin site research in spring 2024. The team’s focus is the potential effects on marine habitats, food webs and shifts in commercially important species.
This work would inform the developer’s plans, especially amid uncertainty for how offshore wind might affect marine wildlife in such waters, said Evan Ward, head of Marine Sciences at UConn and the project’s principal investigator.
“What we need to do is we need to investigate those concerns,” Ward said. “Then it'll be up to the power companies to modify what they're doing to mitigate those impacts.”
The study is required under the development plans, and is being funded with a $1.25 million grant by Eversource and Ørsted. It builds upon the developers’ partnership with Mystic Aquarium that examines how marine mammals’ health and well-being could be affected by offshore wind turbines.
The research is significant to future clean energy development coexisting with marine ecosystems, said Nicole Verdi, Ørsted’s head of government affairs and policy in New England.
“It’s very important for us to make sure that the offshore wind community is thriving, and also to make sure that the fishing community and the marine habitat community is thriving,” Verdi said.
Offshore wind is a big part of the country’s goals to curb climate change by transitioning to net-zero emission energy. Ward said evaluating the net impact on marine wildlife is vital to that effort.
“We have to get a handle on climate change. If we don't get a handle on climate, then all this other stuff doesn't matter,” Ward said. “It's already significantly impacting the world, and it's going to continue to and significantly impact marine species.”