South Fork Wind and Leading Environmental Organizations Sign Agreement to Further Enhance Protections for North Atlantic Right Whales
South Fork Wind’s added mitigation measures and work to advance new technologies will serve as a trial to safeguard whales and other marine wildlife
BOSTON – South Fork Wind, a joint venture offshore wind project developed by Ørsted and Eversource, announced today it has signed an agreement with leading environmental organizations to further enhance measures designed to protect the North Atlantic right whale during construction and operation of the offshore wind farm.
The agreement with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), and Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) expands on the commitment from Ørsted, the leading U.S. offshore wind energy partner, and Eversource, New England’s largest energy provider and experts in regional energy transmission, to responsibly build clean energy projects while minimizing and mitigating impacts to marine wildlife and critical habitat. Offering utility-scale clean energy production, offshore wind energy is a key resource to move the U.S. toward a green economy and mitigate the acute effects of climate change on ocean and lands.
“In order to address the climate crisis, we need the offshore wind industry to grow and thrive,” said Alison Chase, a senior policy analyst at NRDC. “Measures like these by South Fork Wind to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts on the North Atlantic right whale are key to ensuring offshore wind development is done in a smart way that protects our valuable and vulnerable wildlife. We don’t need to choose between clean energy development and wildlife protection, and this agreement shows how we can do both.”
North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered whales on the planet and scientists estimate that fewer than 340 remain. South Fork Wind has committed to measures that will help protect these whales in the project area, where their habitat is increasingly threatened by climate change. For example, South Fork Wind will adopt a suite of monitoring measures to help ensure right whales are not in close proximity to the construction site during construction activities, implement mitigation to reduce noise during piling, and evaluate other new monitoring technologies as part of the agreement. To guard against vessel strikes, the agreement also includes a 10-knot speed limit for all project-related vessels unless an effective adaptive speed management plan is in place.
In addition to these mitigation measures, South Fork Wind will test advanced technologies that detect and have the potential to track whales, including thermal cameras, acoustic sensors, and data integration software. With added scientific understanding of North Atlantic right whale movements in response to factors like climate change, South Fork Wind will be well-equipped to adapt mitigation measures in response to evolving science.
South Fork Wind will be a pilot program for these provisions, and the companies may use them in future projects.
“As the world’s most sustainable energy company, we’re proud to be developing a project that helps address the climate threat by producing green electrons and doing so in a responsible way,” said Rob Mastria, Project Development Director of South Fork Wind for Ørsted. “This agreement enhances our existing ability to protect marine life based on 30 years of experience building and operating offshore wind farms, while trialing new technologies that will further strengthen our ability to both combat the threat of climate change and build projects that coexist with our eco-system.”
“Today’s agreement will further ensure that clean, renewable offshore wind energy and the North Atlantic right whale will co-exist together, as we continue to deliver on our promise of fighting climate change,” said Julia Bovey, Director of Offshore Wind External Affairs at Eversource Energy. “South Fork Wind will play a key role in limiting the long-term damage that carbon pollution is causing to our environment and marine animals, reducing emissions by an estimated six million tons over the lifetime of the project. We look forward to working with our partners in the conservation community as we look for additional ways to ensure that offshore wind is built sustainably.”
The NWF, NRDC, and CLF are working to advance offshore wind energy as a key resource to combat climate change, aiming to establish the industry in a way that includes protections for vulnerable marine life and habitat. The groups are working across sectors to address impacts to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, which face serious threats from entanglement in fishing gear and vessel collisions, and shifting prey and habitat availability due to climate change.
“Responsibly developed offshore wind power is a vital component of our transition to a clean energy economy. To help build an energy future that prioritizes the health and well-being of wildlife and communities alike, America’s pursuit of this critical climate solution must be guided by robust stakeholder input and scientific integrity,” said Amber Hewett, offshore wind program director at the National Wildlife Federation. “This agreement is a huge win for wildlife and we are so proud to work with our partners to protect species like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale as offshore wind energy continues to build momentum in the United States.”
“Offshore wind is a crucial element of our nation’s strategy to address the climate crisis, but it must be done in a way that protects vital ocean wildlife and habitat,” said Dr. Priscilla Brooks, Director of Ocean Conservation at CLF. “With fewer than 350 critically endangered right whales remaining on earth, every loss is a tragedy. The vessel speed restrictions and adaptive management measures agreed to by South Fork Wind will go a long way toward protecting these whales from being injured or killed by project vessels.”
Ørsted and Eversource’s offshore wind biodiversity efforts are guided by principles that prioritize coexistence with the natural environment, including but not limited to the areas where the companies construct and operate offshore wind farms, ensuring that impacts during construction are minimized and monitoring efforts are implemented to understand potential impacts during the operational life of the wind farm.
Ørsted was the first offshore wind developer in America to hire a marine biologist, part of a growing team of experts the company employs to ensure that it carefully considers impacts to marine life from offshore wind projects like South Fork Wind. The company is also funding an innovative app called WhaleAlert that tracks whales and distributes information to help vessels avoid collisions, has made other investments in tracking software, and is partnering with a range of national and international academic institutions to advance biodiversity efforts.
South Fork Wind is New York State’s first offshore wind farm. The project is located 35 miles east of Long Island and its 12 turbines will generate approximately 130MW of power—enough to power approximately 70,000 homes. The project broke ground in January 2022 and is expected to be operational in late 2023.
Read more on the agreement here.
About Ørsted Offshore North America
The Ørsted vision is a world that runs entirely on green energy. Four years in a row, Ørsted earned recognition as the world’s most sustainable energy company by Corporate Knights, including for 2022. The company is a global clean energy leader and has the largest portfolio of offshore wind energy in the world. In the United States, Ørsted operates the Block Island Wind Farm, America’s first offshore wind farm, and constructed the two-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project – the first turbines installed in federal waters. Ørsted has approximately 5,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy in development in five states and across seven projects. Ørsted Offshore’s North American business is jointly headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island and employs approximately 250 people. To learn more visit us.orsted.com or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@OrstedUS).
Eversource (NYSE: ES), celebrated as a national leader for its corporate citizenship, is the #1 energy company in Newsweek’s list of America’s Most Responsible Companies for 2021 and recognized as one of America’s Most JUST Companies. Eversource transmits and delivers electricity and natural gas and supplies water to approximately 4.4 million customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. The #1 energy efficiency provider in the nation, Eversource harnesses the commitment of approximately 9,200 employees across three states to build a single, united company around the mission of safely delivering reliable energy and water with superior customer service. The company is empowering a clean energy future in the Northeast, with nationally recognized energy efficiency solutions and successful programs to integrate new clean energy resources like solar, offshore wind, electric vehicles, and battery storage into the electric system. For more information, please visit eversource.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. For more information on our water services, visit aquarionwater.com.
About National Wildlife Federation
Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more than six million members and supporters, including hunters, anglers, gardeners, birders, hikers, campers, paddlers, etc. The mission of the National Wildlife Federation is to unite all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in our rapidly changing world. The organization's programs focus on conserving wildlife, restoring habitat and waterways, expanding outdoor opportunities, connecting children with nature, and addressing the causes and consequences of climate change.
About Natural Resources Defense Council
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
About Conservation Law Foundation
Conservation Law Foundation protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. We use the law, science, and the market to create solutions that preserve natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant regional economy. CLF’s approach to environmental advocacy is distinguished by our close involvement with local communities; our ability to design and implement effective strategies; and our capacity for developing innovative and economically sound solutions to our region’s most critical environmental challenges. Learn more at www.clf.org.