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NOAA and the University of Rhode Island Sign Agreement to Explore Effects of Offshore Wind Energy Development

June 15, 2023

Partnership to help offshore wind energy operations occur in a healthy, functioning ocean ecosystem.

Overcast day with mostly gray and silver tones. In the background at left, a line of 8 offshore windmills tower over the horizon. In the foreground, a small boat open-decked boat with a flat roof is silhouetted against a shining sea A small fishing vessel near wind turbines. Credit: Bob Brewer on Unsplash

NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the University of Rhode Island (URI) have signed a 5-year formal partnership agreement to research how offshore wind energy development will affect marine ecosystems and the people who live near, or work on, the ocean.

“Our science center and URI bring a deep bench of scientific expertise and experience in oceanography, marine life, fisheries, and coastal communities,” said Jon Hare, who leads the center. “I am delighted about this opportunity to leverage our capabilities to better understand the interactions between offshore wind development and marine ecosystems.”

Under the agreement, the multidisciplinary approach will focus on understanding these complicated relationships on an ecosystem level. For example, an early project under the agreement is to create an integrated ecosystem assessment for the Gulf of Maine, linking fishing, the environment, and offshore wind energy development.

“Integrating offshore wind energy responsibly and resourcefully into our already complex and increasingly crowded marine ecosystems and environments is a priority issue for URI leadership,” said Bethany Jenkins, URI’s interim Vice President for Research and Academic Development.

Partnership Makes Collaboration a Priority

Specifically, the partnership will streamline NOAA’s ability to efficiently and effectively tap into URI science, outreach, and education expertise and resources. It will allow NOAA to respond to pressing and shared marine resources issues tied to offshore wind energy development. NOAA and URI are considering efforts to ensure that vessel-based data captured on commercial fish species can be adapted to accommodate navigation in wind farms.

The partnership was made through a cooperative research and development agreement, which allows federal and non-federal partners to do collaborative research. Through these agreements, NOAA and non-federal partners share ideas, technical expertise, facilities, and other research materials.

The center’s wind energy team is primarily located in Narragansett, Rhode Island, steps away from the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. The center works to promote sustainability of marine life in the region, support seafood harvests, sustain coastal communities, and generate economic opportunities and benefits from the use of these resources.

The URI Coastal Resources Center at the Graduate School of Oceanography, Rhode Island Sea Grant, and the Coastal Institute are providing key support for the university in the partnership. They will draw on expertise and collaboration from other URI entities, including the College of the Environment and Life Sciences and the Ocean Engineering Department/College of Engineering.

The university has been a leader in research, outreach, education, and workforce development issues for more than a decade. It was instrumental in assisting the state with the science and policy work necessary to create the Rhode Island Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP), which provided the siting and management of the Block Island Wind Farm, the country’s first, when it became operational in 2016.

Offshore wind energy development is a key component for ensuring the nation’s energy security in the years to come. This collaboration will help ensure that offshore wind energy operations occur in a healthy, functioning ocean ecosystem that continues to support marine life, ocean livelihoods, and the coastal communities in our region.

For more information on cooperative research and development agreements and other ways to partner with NOAA, visit the NOAA Technology Partnerships Office website.

Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on June 16, 2023