logo
Article

Noise from offshore wind turbines may lead to whale extinction, environmentalists say

Epoch Times|Donna Andersen|February 2, 2024
New JerseyUSAIndiaNoiseOffshore WindWhales

Imagine living amid noise as loud as a rock concert, all day, every day. Environmentalists say that’s exactly what will happen to all sea creatures—from fish to whales to clams—in the waters around the massive offshore wind farms planned for the eastern coast of the United States. The spinning windmills will be so loud, they say, that people at the beach will hear them, too.


Continuous operational noise will disturb many species of fish, marine mammals and even humans. 

Imagine living amid noise as loud as a rock concert, all day, every day. Environmentalists say that’s exactly what will happen to all sea creatures—from fish to whales to clams—in the waters around the massive offshore wind farms planned for the eastern coast of the United States.

The spinning windmills will be so loud, they say, that people at the beach will hear them, too.

Offshore wind farms create airborne, underwater and seabed noise vibrations, Bob Stern, president of Save Long Beach Island and a former manager of environmental reviews for the U.S. Department of Energy, told The Epoch Times.

His organization retained XI Engineering …

... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

Continuous operational noise will disturb many species of fish, marine mammals and even humans. 

Imagine living amid noise as loud as a rock concert, all day, every day. Environmentalists say that’s exactly what will happen to all sea creatures—from fish to whales to clams—in the waters around the massive offshore wind farms planned for the eastern coast of the United States.

The spinning windmills will be so loud, they say, that people at the beach will hear them, too.

Offshore wind farms create airborne, underwater and seabed noise vibrations, Bob Stern, president of Save Long Beach Island and a former manager of environmental reviews for the U.S. Department of Energy, told The Epoch Times.

His organization retained XI Engineering Consultants of England to conduct an acoustical analysis of Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, proposed for 8.7 miles off Atlantic City and Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

The airborne noise reaching the Jersey Shore from the 200 turbines will be a continuous pulsing hum, he said.

At 47 to 57 decibels, people at the beach will hear sounds as loud as a humming refrigerator or air conditioner. The legal nighttime noise limit in New Jersey is 50 decibels, so at night the offshore wind turbines could violate the law.

The wind turbines will also generate low frequency and infrasonic airborne noise, which humans don’t hear very well but can cause problems like sleeplessness, Mr. Stern said.

But that’s nothing compared to how the wind turbines will affect North Atlantic right whales, of which only 340 remain on Earth.

The wind farms will create an underwater wall of sound that could block the whales’ annual migration between New England and the southeastern United States.

“If they cannot migrate, then the females will not be able to make it to Florida and Georgia, which is where they give birth,” Mr. Stern told The Epoch Times. “Births in the whales will become extinct. This is serious stuff.”

Both fish and marine mammals depend on their sense of hearing to survive, and no one really knows what building hundreds of wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean will do to them.

“Fish don’t have ears the way that mammals do, but they do have sound receptors,” Rich Hittinger, an oceanographer and former member of the Rhode Island Fisherman’s Advisory Board, explained to The Epoch Times.

“They have a lateral line that’s very sensitive to sound and vibration. So some of them can actually be injured, and some of them can be killed, with the level of sound that’s going to be produced during construction.”

Whales and dolphins navigate by echolocation, which is biological sonar, and use a variety of sounds to communicate with each other.

Mr. Stern told The Epoch Times that two whales, a mother and calf, may be migrating along the coast when they encounter noise from offshore wind farms. The noise may not damage their hearing, but they could lose communication with each other.

“The calf can get separated from the mother, and then the calf can die,” Dr. Stern said. “The cause of death won’t be noise. It'll be something else. But actually, noise was the precipitating factor.”

Mr. Stern described a study that showed whales will stop feeding and go to the surface to get away from noise. “Then, if they’re on the surface and they’re disoriented, they’re more subject to be hit by a vessel,” he said.

Noise in All Phases of Projects

Offshore wind projects have four distinct phases, all of which generate noise that may be disturbing or even debilitating for marine life, including invertebrates, according to a 2020 report by T. Aran Mooney, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and colleagues.

“Noise can mask detection of biologically important signals used for communication, predator avoidance, and prey detection, and can influence behaviors,” the report stated.

“For example, animals may move out of a noise area, potentially disrupting foraging or breeding.”

In offshore wind development, survey vessels first map the ocean floor using sonar equipment that sends sound waves to and below the seabed. Multiple types of equipment are used, with different frequencies and source noise levels ranging from 200 to 250 decibels, a table in the report showed.

Next is construction. Wind turbine monopile foundations—steel pipes up to 49 feet in diameter—are pounded deep into the ocean floor by massive hydraulic hammers. According to the Mooney report, studies have shown that the effects of pile-driving noise range from none to lethal, depending on the species.

Once the wind farms are operational, they produce underwater noise, equivalent to a large commercial ship, nearly constantly for 25 years.

“This makes the wind farm a unique and highly local sound source [spread over hundreds of square kilometers in many proposed U.S. offshore wind farms] that marine animals in the area will find difficult to avoid,” Mr. Mooney wrote.

After about 25 years, wind turbines are expected to be decommissioned. Because this hasn’t really happened yet, there is little published science on decommissioning noise.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 makes it illegal to kill or harass a marine mammal. Harassment means to disrupt the animal’s behavior, including migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, harassment occurs when animals are exposed to 160 decibels of impulsive noise, such as pile driving, or 120 decibels of continuous noise, which is as loud as a rock concert.

When measuring in decibels, the difference between 120 and 160 is larger than it looks. “Decibels are what they call a logarithmic scale,” Mr. Stern explained to The Epoch Times.

“Every time you see an increase of 10 decibels, that actually means the intensity of the noise got multiplied by 100. It’s not 10 percent; it’s a factor of 10.

“So these decibels have to be done right. And any whale will tell you, if the humans mess up the decibels, the whale’s going to hear it.”

Three factors are crucial in determining how the operational noise of offshore wind turbines will affect marine mammals, such as the North Atlantic right whale, Mr. Stern said.

First is the amount of noise generated by each wind turbine.

Atlantic Shores plans to use the 15-megawatt Vestas-236 wind turbine, the largest yet designed. This turbine has not been deployed anywhere in the world, so there is no data on how much noise it will generate.

However, research has shown that the larger the turbine, the more noise it produces.

Using noise data from smaller turbines, Mr. Stern and XI Engineering Consultants have estimated that each Vestas-236, on a monopile foundation, will create 181 to 192 decibels of noise. With 200 turbines in the wind farm, the noise will be even greater.

The second factor in determining noise levels is transmission loss—the amount that noise decreases as it moves away from the source.

Third is the distance the noise must travel before it diminishes to a level that it will not disturb an animal’s behavior.

Using data most relevant to New Jersey, Mr. Stern and XI Engineering Consultants calculated this distance as 12 miles from the perimeter of the wind farm.

Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind is planned for 8.7 miles from New Jersey and cover 160 square miles. New Jersey just awarded contracts for the Invenergy and Attentive Energy wind farms, both located to the east, about 36 miles from the coast. Together, these wind farms cover 263 square miles of ocean.

The massive wind farms, generating noise that will extend 12 miles beyond their perimeters in all directions, will create an obstacle course for migrating whales. “There is essentially no route whales can take to stay in their historic migration range,” the Save Long Beach Island report stated.

Move the Wind Farms, Save the Whales

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management awards wind farm leases and 28 are currently active along the eastern United States. They’re all located directly in the endangered North Atlantic right whale migration path.

Mr. Stern and Save Long Beach Island have been trying to bring the noise issue to the attention of federal and state regulators for two years. They’ve commented on environmental impact statements, and wind farm construction authorization applications and even sent a letter to President Joe Biden.

“There has been, in my view, no meaningful response to the issue,” Mr. Stern said. “The only thing we see in the impact statement is a perfunctory discussion that focuses on the smaller wind turbines.”

Mr. Stern and his organization are not opposed to all offshore wind, only to projects that do not make economic or environmental sense.

“If you want to have an offshore wind program off the New Jersey coast, then we do believe it’s preferable to site them farther out,” Mr. Stern told The Epoch Times.

“At least you’re avoiding all the shore impacts as well as migration problems.”

Mr. Stern believes that keeping the ocean free of wind farms from the shoreline to about 30 miles out will give the whales a path to migrate.

“But if you insist on wind farms close in and far out, then we do not see how the whale’s going to make it.”


Source:https://www.theepochtimes.com…

Share this post
Follow Us
RSS:XMLAtomJSON
Donate
Donate
Stay Updated

We respect your privacy and never share your contact information. | LEGAL NOTICES

Contact Us

WindAction.org
Lisa Linowes, Executive Director
phone: 603.838.6588

Email contact

General Copyright Statement: Most of the sourced material posted to WindAction.org is posted according to the Fair Use doctrine of copyright law for non-commercial news reporting, education and discussion purposes. Some articles we only show excerpts, and provide links to the original published material. Any article will be removed by request from copyright owner, please send takedown requests to: info@windaction.org

© 2024 INDUSTRIAL WIND ACTION GROUP CORP. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WEBSITE GENEROUSLY DONATED BY PARKERHILL TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION