Let’s Compare: Concerns About Offshore vs. Onshore Wind and the Save Long Beach Island Report

from this https://www.nature.com/articles/s44183-022-00003-5 open access review article

One  interesting thing about this to me is that Eastern coastal people with concerns about offshore wind seem to be as easily dismissed by (some) media folks as our own incipient-Bundy interior westerners.  I also “met” an interesting fellow, Bob Stern, involved in this issue in, of all places, a CEQ webinar on the proposed NEPA Phase II regs.   Bob sent it to me as a media representative, so let’s see how other outlets will cover it.

But first, let’s check out the Society of Environmental Journalists backgrounder on offshore wind. This isn’t very objective..it basically says if you’re against offshore wind in your area, you must be a Republican, a fisher, and/or a NIMBY. An obvious problem with this interpretation is that the northeastern States involved are traditionally not Republican.  I’m really not sure why the go-to explanation for disagreements seems to be partisan politics, at least in some quarters. I understand that political reporters would filter information through that lens, but environmental journalists?

The politics of offshore wind farms

On the political front, many Democrats and climate hawks are trying to support offshore wind because they see it as a key renewable energy source to replace carbon-spewing fossil fuel power plants.

Some utilities — NextEra Energy, Dominion Energy and ClearWay Energy — like it because it’s cheaper and is geographically suited.

Certainly, the Biden administration supports offshore wind enthusiastically. For instance, the Inflation Reduction Act had money for it, mostly in the form of tax breaks.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also had money for it. But because such legislation requires compromise, and because West Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (who is fossil fuel-friendly) is needed for many deals, there is a catch.

The federal government, via the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, cannot issue a lease for offshore wind development unless the agency has offered at least 60 million acres for oil and gas leasing on the outer continental shelf.

Others besides fossil fuel industries oppose offshore turbines. Many in the fishing industry, for instance, believe that mammoth wind turbines could disrupt traditional fishing areas and reduce their catch. Fishery groups (such as Maine lobstermen) tend to lobby against offshore wind.

Former President Donald Trump, criminal defendant and GOP presidential front-runner, does not like offshore wind at all. The story really starts back in 2006, when he bought land in Scotland to build a golf resort, then later discovered that a wind farm was to be built offshore that he felt would spoil the resort’s ocean view.

This led to a series of legal battles that Trump lost — although the resort did get built. The subsequent Trump administration was very slow to sign off on offshore wind permits.


Media coverage (and disinformation) a factor

Trump, who hates “windmills,” sparked a lot of media attention when he started this fall with rants about offshore wind harming whales. Or, to be precise, that offshore wind turbines (of which there are still very few) are driving whales “crazy” and “causing whales to die in numbers never seen before.” Like many things Trump says, this is not true.

Media fact-checked these statements, but in doing so they amplified and repeated them. Whales strand themselves, often in groups, quite often, and have been doing so long before offshore wind was even a glimmer in Biden’s eye.

Historically, scientists have not been able to understand the causes of most whale strandings. (Ship strikes do cause individual whale deaths, as we know from physical necropsy evidence.) Among the debunkers were BBC NewsCNN and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It’s not just Trump. When Ørsted canceled its two New Jersey projects in November, the Republicans took what E&E News called a “victory lap.” It has become more than just a New Jersey GOP political thing.


Whenever  I hear the word “debunked” about a complex scientific issue, I know someone is flirting, at least, with bamboozlery.

I would bet that the relationship between whales and industrialization of seabeds is any form is complicated.  Perhaps whales are the sage grouse of the East Coast (roads/piles for oil and gas are bad: roads/piles for wind are good.  At least in the west, though, we have folks like CBD whose concerns seem invariant as to the source of the disturbance.  Does the East Coast have similar ENGOs?

Anyway,  I’ve uploaded the Save Long Beach Island OffshoreWindAlertReport, and I’ll note below some apparent resemblances between offshore wind projects in the East and onshore wind in the West. Now I know that there are many TSW folks with experience in BLM siting of renewables so hopefully you all can add background and context.

Difference.. Coastal wind would be used locally (with increase in electric costs); Western wind- shipped to Coasts or other high population areas.

Similarity.. Should avoid important wildlife migration routes

(From SLBI report) The green line represents the right whale’s primary historic migration range. The red lines represent the distances from the various wind complexes where the noise level will exceed 120 decibels, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) criterion for disturbing the whales behavior, which they will very likely try to avoid. There is essentially no route the NARW could take to stay within its historic migration range and avoid the 120 decibel and higher noise levels, thereby blocking or seriously impairing its migration that is essential to its survival.

Possible Difference: vessel navigation risk, DOD national security, radar interference, sonar, for offshore.. may be some of that in onshore, but I haven’t navigated those EIS’s.

Possible Similarity:  decommissioning issues

(From SLBI report) The BOEM also does not have a stellar track record with regard to other easier decommissioning efforts. A General Accountability Office report found that it collected only eight percent of the revenues needed to do the necessary decommissioning of oil and gas facilities in the Gulf of Mexico. It also found that ninety-seven percent of the seabed pipelines have been left in place.

I haven’t checked the BLM track record (not much wind development on FS).

Possible Similarity: Lack of decarbonization programmatic look and choices of technologies/locations;at the same time I think the BLM does a better job on having alternatives in EIS’s. I also think  BLM has more of a history of programmatics (e.g. the 2005 wind energy programmatic EIS, and the 2023 Solar Programmatic EIS)

(From SLBI report) All major decisions, such as the turbine area location, the number of turbines and their size, are made by the applicant and by unelected federal and state agency staff with no EIS preparation or public input. The result has been some obvious mistakes such as the siting of wind energy areas in the path of or adjacent to migration corridors of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
At the end of that decision process a project EIS is offered to the public for its purported input to the process, that is far too lengthy, difficult to read, offers no real options to weigh in on, does not disclose many major adverse impacts, and is replete with inconsistent, unsupported conclusory statements dismissing impacts, as opposed to presenting the actual significant impacts.

Nowhere in this entire process are true alternative turbine locations, project sizes, or turbine powers presented to the public for genuine input.

Any other similarities or differences you want to point out?

1 thought on “Let’s Compare: Concerns About Offshore vs. Onshore Wind and the Save Long Beach Island Report”

  1. The generic idea of offshore wind is one thing. The practical reality is another. The discussion of offshore wind needs to distinguish between floating and attached systems. Floating offshore wind is much more expensive and unproven. Plus, the dense network of anchor cables is a danger to marine mammals, especially where floating wind will be deployed in whale migration corridors. Access to existing suitable port facilities and transmission is also important.


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