Protecting the Dynamic Ocean
Understanding the environment to minimize conflicts and lower costs
NYSERDA is helping to develop offshore wind to meet our energy needs while reducing environmental impacts from fossil fuels. As with all infrastructure, offshore wind energy development can impact the environment around it; however, it will also help reduce the long-term effects of climate change on New York’s marine ecosystems. By weighing the global benefits of carbon emissions reductions and the potential environmental risks associated with offshore development, New York State is committed to developing offshore wind in a responsible manner that considers environmental impacts and seeks to mitigate them.
What is the E-TWG?
The Environmental Technical Working Group (E-TWG) is an independent advisory body to the State of New York, led by NYSERDA, with a regional focus on offshore wind and wildlife issues in the eastern U.S. It is comprised of offshore wind developers and science-based environmental non-government organizations (NGOs), as well as state and federal wildlife regulatory agencies.
The E-TWG provides a forum for stakeholder discussions and advises the State about measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate anticipated impacts on wildlife during offshore wind energy development activities, including:
- Development of wildlife best management practices
- Identification of research needs and coordination
- Multi-agency coordination for adaptive management
- Creation of a framework for an environmental conservation fund
- VISIT: nyetwg.com
- FACT SHEET: Responsible Development in Our Ocean and Coastal Environments [PDF]
What is the F-TWG?
The Fisheries Technical Working Group (F-TWG) is an independent advisory body comprised of regional commercial fisheries representatives and offshore wind energy developers who provide guidance on how to responsibly implement New York State’s efforts to advance offshore wind energy development in the eastern U.S. Regional state and federal fisheries managers are also engaged in this group to provide technical experience and assist with coordination.
The F-TWG provides a forum for stakeholder discussions and advises the State on how to develop offshore wind energy in a way that protects the State’s and region’s valuable fisheries and fishing communities by:
- Enhancing communication and coordination to encourage a two-way flow of information
- Disseminating information from new data and existing research
- Supporting scientific and technical research to address issues related to offshore wind project planning, siting, construction, operation, and monitoring
- VISIT: nyftwg.com
- FACT SHEET: Commercial Fishing and Offshore Wind [PDF]
- REPORT: The Dynamic Ocean [PDF]
Metocean Data Collection
A strong knowledge of meteorological and oceanographic – metocean – conditions is essential for the safe and efficient design and operation of offshore wind installations. More efficient design of offshore wind sites will help maximize renewable energy output, delivering more clean energy to the electric grid in a smaller footprint. Earlier knowledge of site conditions are also anticipated to reduce the cost of offshore wind energy.
NYSERDA deployed two floating metocean buoys in the New York Bight in the summer of 2019 for a period of two years to record turbine hub-height wind speed and direction, wave and current measurements, as well as other environmental and wildlife data.
- Metocean Data Analysis and supporting information is available on the DNV GL data server
- Wildlife Data Analysis is available on the Normandeau Associates REMOTE data platform
Geophysical and Geotechnical Studies to Support Offshore Wind Development
A strong knowledge of seabed soil conditions is essential for the safe and efficient design and operation of offshore wind installations. Uncertainty in physical conditions increases development risk and by extension offtake bid prices. Obtaining better characterization of the soil conditions of the offshore wind study area will help increase certainty of development conditions, which is useful in planning activities such as the refinement of project layout and turbine siting, key variables in lease auctions, and offtake. Building from a geophysical and geotechnical desktop study commissioned for NYSERDA (Desktop Study [PDF]) for the New York Bight, NYSERDA is supporting new investigations to collect data in the Bight.
- Details about the Geophysical and Geotechnical investigations.
Aerial Baseline Surveys
One of the most pressing research needs is baseline data for potential wildlife exposure in developing offshore wind energy. Equipped with this data, offshore wind developers can decrease uncertainty of site development, reduce costs, and minimize wildlife impacts.
Using the latest digital and sensor technology, NYSERDA is collecting high resolution digital still imagery of wildlife encountered offshore, including birds, sea turtles, fish and fish shoals, and marine mammals. This study provides critical baseline data about wildlife distribution, abundance, and migratory patterns.
- REPORT: 21-07 Digital Aerial Baseline Survey of Marine Wildlife in Support of Offshore Wind Energy [PDF]
- All survey data is available on the Normandeau Associates REMOTE data platform
Ongoing Environmental Research
NYSERDA’s Offshore Wind program works collaboratively with stakeholders, including regional states, New York State and federal agencies and other stakeholders, including members of the Environmental and Fisheries Technical Working Groups (TWGs), to identify knowledge gaps and to support and advance new research. Through competitive funding opportunities and other processes, NYSERDA partners with experts in the field to conduct critical research related to the marine environment and fisheries to inform the responsible and cost-effective development of offshore wind energy.
- Descriptions of ongoing NYSERDA-supported offshore wind research.
- Final reports and related information on completed research.
Master Plan Studies
As part of the Offshore Wind Master Plan, NYSERDA conducted more than 20 studies to inform the responsible and cost-effective development of offshore wind.
Environmental studies included assessments of benthic habitat, birds and bats, fish and fisheries, marine mammals and sea turtles, marine recreational use, sand and gravel, environmental sensitivity, and cumulative effects.
- Visit our Master Plan page to download the full Offshore Wind Master Plan [PDF] or individual studies.
Ocean Data Portals
While the ocean may look like a big open space, it is a dynamic and busy environment punctuated by diverse natural characteristics and human uses like shipping, fishing, and recreation. Efforts to assess and visualize spatial characteristics in the Atlantic Ocean are intended to facilitate informed decision making by government agencies, industries, nongovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders. Ocean data portals are centralized, peer-reviewed sources for interactive maps of the ocean ecosystem and ocean-related human activities based on available data.
The Northeast Ocean Data Portal and Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal are valuable, living tools that can inform ocean planning and management, including offshore wind development. These portals were developed by the Northeast Regional Ocean Council and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean, respectively, through collaboration with state and federal agencies, scientists, ocean industries, non-governmental organizations, and other key stakeholders.
- VISIT: The Northeast Ocean Data Portal at northeastoceandata.org
- VISIT: The Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal at portal.midatlanticocean.org
State of the Science Workshops
State of the Science Workshops bring together stakeholders engaged with environmental and wildlife research relevant to offshore wind energy development in the eastern U.S. These workshops promote regional coordination and collaboration and serve as a forum to share information on efforts to understand, minimize, and mitigate environmental impacts from offshore wind energy development. Workshops bring together scientists to present and discuss their research and are open to members of the public with prior registration.
The first State of the Science Workshop was held in November 2018 and had over 180 attendees from the U.S. and Europe. The next Workshop will be held in November 2020 in Rye Brook, NY and focused on cumulative impacts to wildlife.
- For more information on past and future State of the Science Workshops, visit nyetwg.com
What’s in the Bight?
Fish and Fisheries
More than 300 species of fish move between estuarine, inshore, and offshore habitats across the New York Bight. Some of the most common species found include lobster, butterfish, mackerel, herring, scallops, sea bass, sharks, rays, flounder, haddock, crab, and squid, among others.
With so many diverse species, New York is home to an active commercial, for-hire, and recreational fishing industry, and NYSERDA has been working to understand the sensitivities of fish populations, habitats, and fisheries to offshore wind energy development.
Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles
Marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, porpoises, and seals, are found throughout the New York Bight. Humpback, fin, and North Atlantic right whales typically feed in the Bight and are present year-round, with numbers varying seasonally. Sperm whales, dolphins, beaked whales, harbor porpoises, and harbor and gray seals also inhabit the New York Bight. Harbor porpoises and seals tend to move north of the Bight in summer, while pilot, sperm whales and other species migrate seasonally.
The most common sea turtle in the New York Bight is the loggerhead sea turtle, but studies have also found Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, and green sea turtles. Sea turtles migrate into the Bight during the summer and travel south of the Bight to warmer waters during the winter.
Birds in the New York Bight belong to seven broad groups—waterfowl (such as ducks, geese, and swans), loons, pelagic birds (birds that live in the open ocean for extended periods of time such as shearwaters and petrels), cormorants, shorebirds, alcids, and gulls and terns. While birds live in areas throughout the New York Bight, they are more common in shallower waters near the coast, an area called the Hudson Shelf Valley, and the continental shelf break.
Bird species use the New York Bight differently and at varying times of the year. Waterfowl generally use the shallower waters closer to the coast, while pelagic birds are found in deeper waters further from shore. Shallower waters are also usually home to higher numbers of birds during the winter, while deeper waters are home to more birds in the spring. There is less variability in the number of birds during the summer and fall. Migratory periods bring different species of birds to the region, but they tend to spend less time as they transit through.
Ongoing Environmental Research
NYSERDA continues to support marine research to better characterize the marine environment off our shores.Read More
Read more about Ongoing Environmental Research