Quieter offshore wind energy means happier porpoises

three dolphins
CC BY 2.0 Jesslee Cuizon

I have little doubt that much of the "bird killing, bat mangling, fish destroying" accusations so often leveled against wind power—both offshore and onshore—are largely based on ideological prejudice and a blanket opposition to green energy. But that doesn't mean we should ignore the potential consequences of any clean(er) technology on the natural world.

As offshore wind energy becomes a major force in the global power mix—even, finally, here in the United States—it will be crucially important that we mitigate any potential damage to wildlife and biodiversity.

That's why it's encouraging to see Business Green reporting on research into cutting noise in construction and operation of offshore wind energy, demonstrating that even relatively small reductions in noise levels can lead to significant improvements in the impact on harbor porpoises.

By using a raft of measures including altering piling schedules, air-filled tubes, hydro-sound dampeners, and even utilizing bubbles as a barrier against underwater sound waves, the research—published by WWF and conducted by SMRU Consulting—suggests that a drop of even 8 decibels in construction noise could reduce the chance of a 1% annual drop in North Sea porpoise populations.

Given the fierce urgency of the need to cut carbon emissions, we need to push ahead with an aggressive expansion of low carbon energy production. But we need to do so responsibly. Whether it's bat-friendly wind turbine operation or bee-friendly, low impact solar farms, it's exciting to see the renewable energy industry get serious about mitigating its potential impact on wildlife.

Tags: Biodiversity | Renewable Energy | Wind Power

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