Why Should the Cumulative Effects of Offshore Wind Development Be Considered?

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Reviewed by: Dr. Lyndie Hice-Dunton and Jeff Grybowski

Last Update: September 16th, 2020

At the Global Ocean Summit Series: Session 4, Dr. Lyndie Hice-Dunton (Executive Director, Responsible Offshore Science Alliance) and Jeff Grybowski (Former CEO of Deepwater Wind) explained why it is important to consider the cumulative effects of offshore wind development.

Though much of the United States’ offshore wind regulatory process is through a combination of both federal and state regulations, much of this process remains at the project scale. However, within the past few years, developers have ramped up the pace of their project development and permitting processes. This has resulted in the realization that both the effects and regulations correlated with offshore wind need to be assessed on a cumulative level across projects rather individually.

Some concerns of cumulative effects stem from the fishing industry as many fear that a span of offshore developments will impede fishermen’s access to long-term fishing grounds by means of changes in their ability to transit across an area and to safely fish within the areas where turbines are constructed. Hice-Dunton explains that, though this may have been less of a concern with the existence of only one project, there is a recognition that the effects increase as the number of development sites increase. It is more difficult to anticipate the effects across projects; but, as offshore wind rapidly grows in the United States, there may be a large impact on the marine ecosystem, species and environments as well as the socioeconomic status of fisheries.

Grybowski goes on to point out that the principal regulatory body in the United States is simply catching up to the pace and scale of development in the commercial offshore renewable energy industry which has exceeded expectations. The best example of this is the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issuing the Supplemental EIS for Vineyard Wind’s projects which, unlike its predecessors, does explore the cumulative effects. Grybowski says, “it is an inevitable consequence of the industry’s success”.

He closes out by saying that the cumulative effects do not simply affect the stakeholders; but, the individual industries themselves. Many ocean sectors, including port facilities, will become more competitive as the number of projects increases tenfold.