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The Fish and the Wind-Turbines

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John Benson's picture
Senior Consultant, Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

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  • Jul 8, 2021

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The first major U.S. offshore windfarm, Vineyard Wind, has received final approval. There will be about a dozen more major windfarms on the East Coast by 2025, and probably a few more (plus expansions of the initial projects) thereafter. The offshore buildout on the West Coast will probably start in a few years.

In this work the offshore wind developers have faced several foes. The most credible of these are probably the fishermen. The developers appear to be using a familiar tactic: assemble a consortium of groups that support their development, and simply steamroller their opponents. This may be good for the fish, but, I fear, not for our nation.

I would suggest a different tactic – a bit of political horse-trading.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 8, 2021

It's disappointing the disagreements and political debate has gotten in the way of offshore wind in the U.S. in a more extreme way than in Europe and elsewhere where we're falling quickly behind

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Jul 9, 2021

While I agree with the suggested trade-off, if it is technically feasible, I cannot agree that the coastal fishing people were steamrolled.  Knowing many in the fishing community personally, I know they are not prone to that kind of pressure. And they have been fighting hard and effectively against wind power projects. The Maine fish/lobster community are still fighting to stop wind projects, even in federal waters in the Gulf of Maine, often to the chagrin of elected representatives. Unfortunately, as Matt suggests,  the issue has become another front in the culture wars, complete with massive misinformation campaigns.  The US may fall farther behind Europe as a result.

While they have improved their stewardship of ocean resources for many years now, the fishing community does sometimes take the attitude that those resources are theirs alone to manage and exploit. 

The Vineyard Wind project Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) went through an extremely thorough approval process. Improved risk mitigation measures were added especially for the coastal fishing community, in addition to cash compensation for any anticipated negative impacts.

The robust EIA process, if it is administered well, should ensure that the waters and seabed  around the wind power infrastructure are monitored better than ever before. Impacts will be detected and actions will be required. In both the short and long term, the wind power projects will be a boon to all stakeholders.


Ben Ettlinger's picture
Ben Ettlinger on Jul 12, 2021

John you must mean fish trading :) . Have any studies been done on affects to marine life on the more established European wind farms?

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 12, 2021

I'd be interested in that as well, John. Hopefully someone can chime in.

I'm also wondering about the distinct impacts to natural biodiversity and persistent ecosystems compared with impacts on the commercial fishing industry, since those seem to often be discussed regarding offshore in the same breath but in reality they're two different things (with the environmental regulations of commercial fishing being something that may require more attention with or without wind turbines added to the mix)

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Jul 12, 2021

Ben - Here´s a reference to a study being conducted on North Sea wind farms during construction and operation.

"Behavioural biologist Hans Slabbekoorn from the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) is one of the successful applicants. He leads a consortium with partners from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway. A total of 750,000 euros has been allocated for the study Acoustic ecology of pelagic fish communities (APELAFICO): a study into the effects of construction and operation of wind farms."

You will see in the comments to the article on the study that there are serious questions to be addressed.  Let us hope that the study is thorough and that the findings are duly considered and acted upon, regardless of what they find out. The University of Leiden is highly regarded.

Here ( is a sort of high level look at studies, rules and regulations. There is a plethora of such studies available that address specific issues.

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Jul 12, 2021

Matt, Mark & Ben:

As one that has been nuked by the opponents to offshore wind (Cape Wind, when I worked for Siemens), I know that many of these opponents (like the last administration and rich ocean-front property owners) are happy to use the fishermen as as pawns (OK, ditto the wind developers with their supporters). I absolutely agree that good, honest EIA and an acceptance of reasonable concessions by the developers are the strongest measures that can assure the fishermen are treated fairly.

However, I also know how dangerous fishing off the Atlantic coast can be. A good and effective communication system is something that I believe the offshore wind developers/operators and the fishermen both need and can collaborate on for the benefit of both.

One other thing - I know that every day we are starting see more and more impacts of climate change (Champlain Towers in Surfside, record heat waves on the West Coast, as reported in my most recent July 19 Time). The sooner we can move away from greenhouse gas emitting energy, the sooner we can slow this freight-train down.

I have not hears of any impacts from the European wind farms, and since there are a couple of orders of magnitude more turbines there than are proposed for our East Coast, I would guess that I would have seen something.


Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jul 13, 2021

Wind farms are incompatible with commercial fishing, just like solar farms are incompatible with farming.

I have no doubt the fishermen were steamrolled. The federal bureaucrats make great fanfare about public participation and public comments, but they generally virtually ignore providing responses to the public comments and concerns, particularly when they have obviously predetermined the outcome. This pattern exists throughout the federal government - and yes I have proof.

The impact on the marine environment and marine life of these massive machines is not yet well understood. Stumbling across the damage after installation of gargantuan projects seems to be an all too common technique of the green energy movement.

The green energy movement also has a nauseating habit of disparagingly labeling anybody who questions them.

Claiming we must do something in response to the conjectured future is not a good reason to inflict massive damage on the environment. That approach becomes even more damming when the underlying motives point to simple greed.

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Jul 14, 2021

Hi Michael:

I completely understand where you are coming from, but we are in a situation where the biggest threat that all of the creatures on our planet face (including those that swim and walk on two legs) in the future is climate change. Thus our top priority must be to mitigate this threat  by reducing and finally effectively eliminating greenhouse gases. Climate change has already made massive changes to our environment, and these changes will only get much worse for all creatures, plants, etc. We broke it, and we must fix it. Doing so without collateral damage is no longer an option.



Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jul 15, 2021

Kindly identify the "massive changes to the environment" caused by man dumping CO2 in the atmosphere.

Pretty arrogant to resort to hysteria in the absence of hard data backing up your position. We are suppose to spend trillions and trillions of dollars based on conjecture? We are supposed to condemn the poor to a continued miserable existence based on conjecture?

Not no, but hell no.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Jul 16, 2021

I ask you to consider this: Regardless of the cause, what would a climate crisis look like to you?

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Jul 16, 2021

Hi Michael:

Since I've written literally hundreds of papers/posts on this subject. I will send you through the link below to my list of papers. I might suggest the sections on "Climate Change Impacts & Mitigation" and "Climate Science".  Also you might read the Introduction.


John Benson's picture
John Benson on Jun 10, 2022
John Benson's picture
Thank John for the Post!
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