Alternative Energy: Wind
Energy conservation and the development of renewable energy resources, including wind energy, are an important step in reducing the effects of climate change. However, the development of wind energy facilities should be conducted in a way that minimizes impacts to the environment.
Mass Audubon's top climate change mitigation priority is the responsible development and use of offshore wind. Massachusetts state law requires the Commonwealth to purchase 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind over the next decade—enough energy to power over half a million homes. Our role in this process is to help ensure the industry grows in a way that will help reduce the worst effects of climate change, without negatively impacting wildlife.
Federal Leasing Program
The US Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has developed a leasing program for offshore wind projects in federal waters. After several rounds of auctions, leases have been secured for up to seven projects off the Massachusetts coast. These projects combined have the potential to provide more than 5 GW of energy—enough to power more than 1.5 million homes.
Mass Audubon participates in the public review process for these projects. We've urged BOEM and project developers to take measures to protect important habitats and the marine and bird species that utilize these areas. At a time when offshore wind is growing with unprecedented momentum, it’s crucial that BOEM establish sound environmental review and mitigation practices now.
Although proposed wind facilities off Massachusetts would be located in federal waters, their transmission cables will crossing Massachusetts waters and connect to landfall in places like Cape Cod and New Bedford and connected to the land-based grid. For those cables, state-level permitting is required, and Mass Audubon participates in that review process as well.
We've recommended that these projects follow proposed routes that would limit impacts to fish spawning areas, horseshoe crabs, and other benthic resources, and that it address the full range of potential impacts on all bird species known to forage and rest in or near the project area.
Wind & Wildlife
Concerns exist over wind energy's impact on birds, and that's why Mass Audubon supports responsibly-sited wind projects, and why we advocate for all prospective offshore wind projects to be designed to avoid any significant environmental damage.
But climate change is by far the biggest threat to all birds living today. Of 143 Massachusetts breeding bird species evaluated by Mass Audubon, 43% are "highly vulnerable" to its effects. We need offshore wind to reduce emissions as we work to combat climate change. Estimated bird deaths from wind turbines are also small when compared to other human-caused sources of avian mortality, like window collisions.
Anticipated impacts need to be minimized and mitigated—that's the sequence to success and the review standard to which all projects should be held. With appropriate design, siting and mitigation, the industry can grow as Massachusetts does its part to combat the impacts of global climate change.