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The Nature Conservancy Unveils New Offshore Wind Mapping Tool Covering Maine To North Carolina

Petr Novak

Environmental advocates at The Nature Conservancy released a new mapping tool Wednesday, which they hope will help identify marine species that may be impacted by offshore wind developments.

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The interactive marine map is “similar to Zillow but for offshore wind,” according to The Nature Conservancy. In March, the Biden administration established the goal of creating 30 gigawatts of wind energy by 2030.

As offshore wind developments grow in popularity throughout the Northeast, some have raised concerns about the impact that offshore wind developments will have on marine life.

Kevin Stokesbury, a professor of Fisheries Oceanography at UMass Dartmouth’s School For Marine Science & Technology (SMAST), said he had concerns about the introduction of hard materials, power cables, and new noise, among other things, may impact ocean life.

Other researchers say that developments may generate new habitats for fish by creating artificial reefs.

“It’s going to be quite a big experiment, I think,” Stokesbury said.

The new tool is meant to help decision-makers assess the impact of development on species like fish and whales.

For example, looking at theNew York Bight - Hudson North planning area, a user can see seven different “flags” that show features like marine mammals and avian species that may need special attention.

The interactive map collects publicly available ecological data from universities and federal and state agencies. It can be used to explore offshore areas from Maine to North Carolina.

Having a tool that combines data in a user-friendly way could be particularly helpful for members of the public hoping to get involved with the process for permitting offshore wind farms, said Kelly Buchanan, director of legislative and regulatory affairs at Clean Energy New Hampshire.

Over 4,300 megawatts of offshore wind power are under development in New York waters alone, enough to power more than 2.4 million homes.

Connecticut governor Ned Lamont saidthat the state will become a leader in the nation for offshore wind, with the new development of an industry hub in New London.

The coast of New Hampshire may have enough capacity for offshore wind to power the entire state, according to Clean Energy New Hampshire.

Copyright 2021 New Hampshire Public Radio

Mara Hoplamazian