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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • For more information on past and future State of the Science Workshops, visit nyetwg.com Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page.


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

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.

Learn More

  • Aerial view of dolphins swimming

    Ongoing Environmental Research

    NYSERDA continues to support marine research to better characterize the marine environment off our shores.

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