Offshore Wind Energy Development in New England/Mid-Atlantic Waters

Offshore wind development is rapidly expanding along the Atlantic coast of the United States, especially from Massachusetts to North Carolina. This is a new use of our marine waters, requiring substantial scientific and regulatory review by NOAA Fisheries.

Three wind turbines in a line on the ocean waters of Block Island Sound

Offshore wind turbines in Block Island Sound off Southern New England. Photo: Ionna22 (CC By 4.0)

NOAA’s Role

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is the lead federal agency for offshore energy exploration and development. NOAA Fisheries is the lead federal agency charged with stewardship of marine life. Building, operating, and decommissioning offshore wind power plants affects a number of our key mission areas, including: fisheries, protected animals (such as sea turtles and whales), seabirds, and marine habitats. We provide information to help the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management make informed decisions about offshore wind energy development and operations. Specifically, we:

  • Provide data and analyses.
  • Provide input and review throughout the One Federal Decision process, a cooperative relationship among federal agencies for timely processing of environmental reviews and authorization decisions on proposed major infrastructure projects.
  • Advance scientific understanding.
  • Foster management decisions that promote coexistence among competing uses while minimizing adverse impacts to our trust resources.

Regulatory Authority for NOAA Involvement

We work with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and offshore wind developers to ensure the protection of and to determine how offshore wind projects affect endangered or threatened species, marine mammals, fisheries, marine habitats, and fishing communities. Our authorities derive from:

NOAA Fisheries New England/Mid-Atlantic Regional Activities

NOAA Fisheries provides expertise and advice to regulators, developers, and stakeholders as we work toward a more diverse energy future. To ensure we are prepared, we have established an internal wind energy team. It’s their job to coordinate resources, participation, and communications on wind energy development issues among NOAA staff and our collaborators. To leverage our capacity for addressing wind energy development, we are working with partners including:

  • Regional fishery management councils and commission
  • Responsible Offshore Development Alliance
  • Responsible Offshore Science Alliance
  • International Council for Exploration of the Sea’s Working Group on Offshore Wind Development and Fisheries

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance is leading development of a state-of-the-science symposium and workshop to facilitate regional planning.

We have initiated scientific work in several study areas that will help support decision making:

Biology and Ecology

Fisheries

  • Using fine-scale fishery data to evaluate and predict the potential impact of offshore wind energy development on fishery operations.
  • Analyzing affected commercial and recreational fishing activity to make economic impact information available to planners, developers, and regulators.

Marine Mammals, Sea Birds, Sea Turtles

NOAA Operations

  • We have established a NOAA Fisheries internal working group to identify what will be required to adapt our resources surveys in order to continue data collection in areas where offshore wind energy development occurs.

Resources

data

Socioeconomic Impacts of Atlantic Offshore Wind Development

NOAA Fisheries developed reports summarizing previous fishing activity within each offshore wind lease or project area (for more information on…

Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on October 15, 2020