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NYSERDA: Projects to Advance Environmental, Fishery Understanding
New York Ag Connection - 08/09/2019

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Thursday announced it has selected five multi-year projects totaling more than $2 million to further study important environmental and commercial fishing topics to support the responsible development of offshore wind. These projects advance Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's nation-leading Green New Deal goal of 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035 as codified under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).

Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, "As New York becomes the national epicenter for the U.S. offshore wind industry, we continue to undertake evidence-based environmental and commercial fishing related research to help us advance offshore wind development in way that is sensitive to the environment, ocean and the economy. These projects expand our efforts to mitigate potential impacts of offshore wind energy development and will help protect the State's coastal resources and marine environment ensuring these resources can be enjoyed for generations to come."

Thursday's announcement builds on New York's commitment to responsibly develop offshore wind as a renewable energy source by collecting data and conducting analysis identified by stakeholders as necessary to allowing informed decision making about how to best mitigate impacts to marine wildlife and industries. NYSERDA's efforts to analyze and collect new offshore environmental data began in 2017, via digital aerial surveys of birds, marine mammals, sharks and fish shoals. This three-year survey concluded this past spring after collecting more than 3.5 million images across the New York Bight. This survey was one of more than 20 studies NYSERDA has undertaken to provide current information about potential environmental and social sensitivities, economic and practical considerations, and regulatory requirements associated with offshore wind energy development identified under New York's Offshore Wind Master Plan. These newly selected projects support independent research to build upon this scientific and technical foundation by further addressing environmental, maritime, economic and social issues.

Research conducted as a result of these projects will include significant stakeholder engagement and the results will be made available to the public to encourage broad use and inform additional studies. Advancing understanding of potential wildlife and fisheries interactions with offshore wind will support sound planning, address stakeholder concerns and accelerate offshore wind project development by identifying and reducing risks early in the process.

New York's commitment to engaging with the commercial fishing industry and environmental organizations around offshore wind is exemplified by the requirement for selected offshore wind developers to provide Fisheries and Environmental Mitigation Plans with their proposals, and the requirement that the selected developers engage directly with the State's industry based Technical Working Groups to evolve these plans throughout the development process.

In addition to these interactions, NYSERDA last month issued a request for proposals seeking an individual to undertake the role of a first-of-its-kind New York State offshore wind fisheries liaison to assist the State in expanding its ongoing outreach to, and engagement with, commercial and recreation fishing communities in the New York Bight and the greater Mid-Atlantic and new England region. The deadline for applications is August 19, 2019. The fisheries liaison solicitation is one of many efforts NYSERDA has commenced over the last three years to ensure commercial fishing interests are considered in the development of the state's offshore wind resource.

To further a strong understanding of marine ecosystem function and the timing and relative density of wildlife in the area including migratory whales, fish, birds and bats, recently NYSERDA also launched two meteorological and oceanographic ("metocean") buoys to study the conditions in the waters off the Atlantic coast of New York. The metocean buoys are also equipped with wildlife sensing equipment. Better characterization of the wind, wave, ocean currents and wildlife will help increase certainty of development conditions to advance project layout, turbine siting and engineering, and seasonal construction schedules, ultimately reducing the cost of offshore wind energy.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "As New York continues its national leadership role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change through renewable energy, DEC commends Governor Cuomo and NYSERDA for funding environmental and fisheries research initiatives that will ensure offshore wind is developed in a responsible manner. These projects will help foster the development of offshore renewable technologies while continuing to protect our state's invaluable ocean resources and fishing community."

Approximately $2 million was made available as part of this competitive solicitation for projects in one of five categories: (1) ecosystem dynamics, (2) commercial fishing access, (3) approaches for offshore wind pre- and post-construction monitoring, (4) leveraging non-tradition data, and (5) modeling the effects of offshore wind developments. Proposals were evaluated based on their anticipated contributions to reducing risk to wildlife and fisheries, informing the offshore wind development process, applying to the Mid-Atlantic Bight and New England waters, including interdisciplinary teams including ocean users, and leveraging out-of-State, federal or other resources to address offshore wind development.

The selected projects include:

- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) and others -- Collaborative Development of Strategies and Tools to Address Commercial Fishing: A two-year, $500,000 project to address the need to understand and develop solutions for safe and efficient access to fishing grounds, while also ensuring that offshore energy projects meet their operational goals.

- Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) -- Creation of a "Data Trust" for Effective Inclusion of Fishermen's Knowledge in Offshore Wind Energy Decision Making: A one-year, nearly $300,000 project to develop high-quality, evidence-based science products that can improve decision-making for offshore wind development, with additional benefits for ecosystem-based assessment and fisheries stock assessment and management.

- Biodiversity Research Institute -- Multi-Scale Relationships Between Marine Predators and Forage Fish: A three-year, nearly $500,000 project designed to better understand the linkages between forage fish and seabirds and implications of offshore wind development on seabird behaviors and distribution.

- Ecology and Environment -- Environmental and Fisheries Research for Offshore Wind: An 18-month, $500,000 project to develop spatially and temporally dynamic information about the distribution of oceanographic characteristic in the New York Bight through the development and application of a dedicated multi-year 3-D flow model to wildlife distribution movements.

- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- Development of Monitoring Protocols for Nanotag Studies at Offshore Wind Farms: A two-year, nearly $300,000 project to develop standardized guidelines to inform the use of miniature digitally-coded VHF (very high frequency) transmitters to monitor birds and bats in relation to offshore wind energy development.

These projects represent an important new chapter in New York's nation-leading offshore wind planning efforts, which have been conducted over three years and have included extensive stakeholder, agency, and public consultation along with detailed technical and financial analysis. These planning efforts provided the basis for New York's Offshore Wind Master Plan, released in January 2018, and the New York State Public Service Commission's July 2018 Order Establishing Offshore Wind Standard and Framework for Phase 1 Procurement, which established the foundation for this important step forward.

Last month, Governor Cuomo also announced the winners of New York's first comprehensive wind solicitation -- the Empire Wind and Sunrise Wind projects -- totaling nearly 1,700 megawatts. As the single largest renewable energy procurement made by a state in U.S. history, these two projects are expected to produce enough offshore wind energy to power more than one million homes and support more than 1,600 jobs with a combined economic activity of $3.2 billion statewide, helping to jump start progress towards New York's unprecedented offshore wind goal.

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