Vineyard Wind, the offshore-wind farm that hopes to start producing power next year, has announced a new multi-year collaboration with the University of New Hampshire to deploy a Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) device to record ambient sound and marine mammal species vocalizations.
The monitoring device will record underwater sound a minimum of 30 days before the start of offshore construction and will remain active through at least 3 years of operations and maintenance, the company said in a press release.
The University of New Hampshire previously led the Atlantic Deepwater Ecosystem Observatory Network, a baseline acoustic data collection project in the mid- and south-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.
“Sound is the dominant sensory mode for life underwater, and as the regional oceans become busier, sound from human activity has the possibility of masking biologically important sounds which could potentially alter the local ocean soundscape and impact marine life,” said Jennifer Miksis-Olds, Research Professor and Director of UNH’s Center for Acoustics Research and Education. “This exciting collaboration with Vineyard Wind will provide valuable data that could help make a positive difference in effective monitoring and mitigation of marine mammals and be a model for future ocean users to be sound environmental stewards.”
Under the terms of the contract, Vineyard Wind and UNH will partner for a 5-year period that overlaps both the construction and O&M phase of the offshore wind project. The program will provide tuition assistance for graduate students in UNH’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences who will participate in the data collection and analysis. Students will use the data to determine the species and numbers of marine mammals that may be present in the Vineyard Wind lease area, and the types and the amount of sound that is created by the offshore wind project. The project recordings will be compared with data that UNH already has in-house from its other scientific endeavors in the Atlantic region.
Vineyard Wind, an 800-megawatt project 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, will generate electricity for more than 400,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts and is estimated to save customers $1.4 billion over the first 20 years of operation, and is expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 1.6 million metric tons per year, the equivalent of taking 325,000 cars off the road annually.
The project will use 62, 13MW General Electric Haliade-X wind turbines that will be connected to an offshore substation, where the power will be transferred to two export cables that will make landfall at Covell’s Beach in the town of Barnstable, then and connect to the grid at an inland substation.
While UNH collects all that data and determines that the windmills’ underwater noise does harm the sea creatures, who is going to pay contractors to install the proper noise muffling materials around the base of those windmills?