Quality of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) has been criticized, in part due to a lack of accounting in these tools for differing spatial and temporal scales inherent in ecological data. In the United States, leases of outer continental shelf blocks for offshore wind projects and their construction and operation plans require EIAs in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the 1978 Council on Environmental QualityRegulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act. This study evaluated consideration of spatiotemporal scales of stressors, receptors (specifically cetaceans), and effects in eight federal offshore wind energy EIAs against 26 criteria extracted from federal regulations. The criteria analysis determined that EIAs do not consistently or comprehensively address spatiotemporal scales with respect to federal requirements. Deficiencies in addressing spatiotemporal scales may result from imprecise regulations, intent to simplify encyclopedic documents, or lack of data resulting in incomplete assessments, inappropriate mitigation actions, and projects delays. Recommendations to improve compliance with federal regulations include making federal guidance binding, focusing on non-trivial impacts of species, tiering information, and incorporating outcomes of marine spatial planning.
Coastal and Offshore Energy
Offshore wind is gaining momentum in the United States as a viable source for meeting domestic energy needs. Although offshore wind farms have been developed in Europe and Asia, the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) is the first offshore wind farm built in North America. To improve marine resource management, it is critical to understand the impacts of the wind farm on marine resource users in context. Little is known about the impacts of offshore wind farms on marine resource users in the United States. This study investigates recreational and commercial fishers' perceptions of the impacts of the BIWF on the local marine ecosystem. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 25 fishers, mostly based out of Block Island or Point Judith, Rhode Island (US), in the summer and fall of 2017. During the interviews, fishers were asked about their perceptions of changes in the marine ecology of the wind farm area during and after the offshore wind turbines were constructed, and how their activities in the area have changed since the wind farm was installed. Results indicate that there were perceived impacts of the BIWF on the local ecosystem and the behavior of the marine resource users. For some recreational fishers, the wind farm functioned as a destination or target and served as an artificial reef for spearfishing. For some commercial fishers, the increase in recreational fishing due to the establishment of the BIWF crowded out commercial fishers in these areas. As the offshore wind farm industry expands within US waters, findings from this study and others like it can provide valuable insights on the potential impacts of these wind farms on marine resource users.
Tidal lagoons are presented as an environmentally friendly alternative to tidal barrages. This does not mean that their environmental impacts can be overlooked. A UK government review recommended a pilot scheme lagoon go ahead, with careful environmental monitoring. Despite recent government rejection of a lagoon scheme, it is still more important than ever to consider environmental solution options for any future lagoon developments. There are no operating lagoons in the world and so their environmental impacts are not fully understood. However, there is a vast quantity of literature available from other industries addressing similar impacts in the coastal, ocean and river environments. This systematic review follows the PRISMA and CEE guidance. Using this methodology the available literature covering relevant solution options from other industries that could be applied to future lagoon developments was quantified. This presents an investigation into solution options only, giving a quantitative analysis of what resources are available, how this compares to industry understanding, where the expertise lies globally, what impacts are being addressed and how applicable the solutions are for lagoon application. This paper analyses the extent and relevance of this available research on solutions as a resource for the nascent lagoon industry. Over half of the solutions found in this review require only small shifts in development for them to be realistic solution options for the lagoon industry in the future. This review opens the door on a vast and valuable resource and justifies the need for further investigation into solutions for the lagoon industry.
Seabirds select suitable habitats at sea, but these habitats may be strongly impacted by marine spatial planning, including the construction of offshore wind farms (OWFs) and the associated ship traffic. Loons (Gavia spp.) are particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic activities and are also of high conservation status, making them particularly relevant to marine planning processes. We investigated the effects of OWF construction and ship traffic on Loon distributions in the German North Sea on a large spatial scale, using a ‘before–after’ control impact analysis approach and a long-term data set. Many OWFs were built in or close to core areas of Loon distributions. Loons showed significant shifts in their distribution in the ‘after’ period and subsequently aggregated between two OWF clusters, indicating the remaining suitable habitat. The decrease in Loon abundance became significant as far as about 16 km from the closest OWF. Ship traffic also had a significant negative impact on Loons, indicating that OWFs deterred Loons through the combined effect of ship traffic and the wind turbines themselves. This study provides the first analysis of the extensive effects of OWFs and ships on Loons on a large spatial scale. The results provide an essential baseline for future marine spatial planning processes in the German North Sea and elsewhere.
The number of fixed oil and gas platforms are declining in the Gulf of Mexico, there were ∼3674 platforms installed the since 1942 and today there are ∼1320. Eventually, ∼30,000 jobs will be lost in related industries because of platform removals. Retired oil and gas platforms could be redeployed for alternate uses such as CO2 capture and storage, renewable wind energy, and sustainable fisheries and employ citizens in coastal areas. Elsewhere around the world, offshore platforms are used for purposes other than producing oil and gas. U.S. Federal legislation (Energy Policy Act 2005 Section 388 of Public Law [PL] 109-58); 30 CFR 285.1000 Subpart J) authorizes the use of retired oil and gas platforms for alternate uses. If the retired oil and gas structures are preserved, the infrastructure could also be used to recover stranded petroleum using CO2 enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR). We examined the socio-economic incentives, environmental impacts, and regulatory issues associated with the alternate uses. We suggest that CO2-EOR is the most economically efficient way to store CO2 offshore and that offshore wind turbines may assist with the energy requirements for oil and gas production and CO2-EOR. Data suggest that in our study area offshore platforms are more successful at producing fish and invertebrates if they are left standing instead of toppled over. The greatest regulatory issue facing the use of retired platforms is the transfer of liability. If the structures are redeployed, the previous oil and gas owner/operators are still responsible for eventual removal and catastrophic events. A variety of future economic activity in the Gulf of Mexico could take advantage of this infrastructure, if it remains in place.
The paper investigates the construction of strategies aiming to up-scale low-carbon innovations from pilot to full commercial scale. This requires a systemic understanding of the evolution of the technology along with the organizations and infrastructures supporting its development. Technological innovation systems concepts operationalize system building processes, including the establishment of constituent elements and the performance of key innovation activities. The study surveys the national roadmaps published between 2009 and 2014 for offshore wind energy in deepwaters (more than 50 m deep) which inform on how actors expect the system to grow, including the innovation activities crucial to achieve it. The roadmaps point to the role of guidance and legitimacy as triggers of changes in other innovation processes (knowledge creation, experimentation and so on) needed for take-off. The analysis reveals that the growth plans conveyed in the roadmaps are overly optimistic when compared with the time taken to develop offshore wind energy in fixed structures for shallow waters. Several countries have adopted supporting policies following the publication of the roadmaps, but weaknesses in crucial innovation processes (e.g. specialized skills) and external factors (e.g. crisis, regulatory approval) resulted in a delay of the first large investments. Policy should be based on realistic expectations and adequate to the phase of innovation, such as the promotion of technology-specific institutions (standards, codes, regulations and so on) in technology up-scaling. New directions for research are also provided.
Public acceptance of renewable energy technologies (RETs) is critical to the broader adoption of these technologies and reducing the role of fossil fuels in electricity generation. Recent investigations into the public engagement processes surrounding RET projects reveal certain procedural deficits, especially concerning procedural fairness and stakeholder trust. With this in mind, we analyze two engagement processes that led to the Block Island Wind Farm, the first operational offshore wind farm in the United States. Through semi-structured interviews we identify certain procedural techniques that allowed process leaders to first build public trust in themselves, then in the process, and ultimately in the outcome. This chain of trust was fostered through informal efforts of process leaders to meet stakeholder expectations concerning process leaders’ ability to work for the public interest, provide meaningful engagement opportunities, and to produce non-discriminatory outcomes. This case study highlights the potential of such informal actions to meet stakeholder expectations and build trust, while also empirically demonstrating specific techniques that future process leaders could employ to increase stakeholder acceptance of RETs.
The global development of the offshore renewable energy sector has been driven by extensive investment and research in the utilization of offshore renewable energies, mainly at the regional level. However, for mid to long-term marine energy development planning, a comprehensive assessment of the global potential for the exploitation of the main offshore resources is required. This work developed and implemented an innovative methodological approach to identify potential zones for wind and wave energy exploitation at the global level, using long-term data series with fine spatial and temporal resolution. The proposed methodology was based on a five-step approach comprised of: (i) a resource assessment, to identify the zones with favorable conditions for energy exploitation; (ii) a structural survivability assessment, to identify feasible areas which would likely ensure the integrity and durability of the wind and wave devices; (iii) a logistics assessment, to evaluate the possibility of carrying out installation, operations, and maintenance activities; (iv) an assessment of the distance to consumer centers, to estimate the feasibility of transmission to the main urban areas; and (v) an estimate of the extractable power of the identified potential zones. For wind power, the United Kingdom (with 1470 TWh/month using a 10-MW turbine) and the United States (1079 TWh/month) were the countries with the highest estimated energy output of the identified potential zones. For wave energy, Brazil and New Zealand presented good opportunities for the development of the wave energy industry, with an estimated extractable power of 372 TWh/month and 286 TWh/month, respectively. The unique preliminary global analysis presented in this work provides guidelines to assist in the development of wave and offshore wind industries, in addition to supporting the management of marine spaces. Moreover, the methodologies can be replicated for other marine activities.
The development of the Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) industry is part of the EC Blue Growth Strategy. It brings together a range of relationships across people, sea, and energy, from developers to local communities and policymakers. This calls for diverse approaches, moving beyond an oppositional mindset to one that can establish an inclusive community around MRE development. Ownership of the marine environment is a legal issue, but MRE devices operate within a cultural and emotional sense of place. Early, sustained community engagement and advocacy is crucial to developing an industry whose impacts are likely to be felt before its social benefits materialise. Crucially, local communities could be supported by Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) research in creating new mythologies and imaginaries through which MRE technologies become an integral part of their culture, as well as part of their biophysical environment. A complex physical, political, and legal environment provides the context for these new marine energy technologies, and its development provides opportunities for SSH research to address issues around the sea and to integrate into the design of new marine energy seascapes.
Submarine power cables (SPC) have been in use since the mid-19th century, but environmental concerns about them are much more recent. With the development of marine renewable energy technologies, it is vital to understand their potential impacts. The commissioning of SPC may temporarily or permanently impact the marine environment through habitat damage or loss, noise, chemical pollution, heat and electromagnetic field emissions, risk of entanglement, introduction of artificial substrates, and the creation of reserve effects. While growing numbers of scientific publications focus on impacts of the marine energy harnessing devices, data on impacts of associated power connections such as SPC are scarce and knowledge gaps persist. The present study (1) examines the different categories of potential ecological effects of SPC during installation, operation and decommissioning phases and hierarchizes these types of interactions according to their ecological relevance and existing scientific knowledge, (2) identifies the main knowledge gaps and needs for research, and (3) sets recommendations for better monitoring and mitigation of the most significant impacts. Overall, ecological impacts associated with SPC can be considered weak or moderate, although many uncertainties remain, particularly concerning electromagnetic effects.