The halfway point has been reached in a three-year survey of wildlife off the coast of New York state that is said to be the world’s largest and most detailed of its type.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) said data collected by contractor Normandeau Associates and partner Apem will enable environmentally responsible development of the state’s offshore wind resource while advancing development of 2.4 GW of offshore wind energy.
NYSERDA president and chief executive Alicia Barton said “Collecting this data is crucial in the state’s effort to provide regulators and offshore wind developers with information they can use to help avoid the areas that support the richest diversity of marine life.
“The aerial survey is one of the more than 20 robust studies the state has undertaken to demonstrate carrying out Governor Cuomo’s pledge that the offshore wind resource will be developed in an environmentally responsible manner.”
More than 2M ultra-high-resolution images of birds, sharks, sea turtles, fish and marine mammals have been captured, including two blue whales and six North Atlantic right whales. Tens of thousands of birds have been identified, including shearwaters, double-crested cormorants, petrels, gulls, terns and bald eagles. Hundreds of sharks and whales have also been recorded, as well as more than 5,000 dolphins, by far the most common marine mammal in the project. Interesting spatial patterns are already emerging from the data.
The research covers the New York Offshore Planning Area (OPA) – approximately 41,000 km2 of the New York Bight – an area larger than the state of Maryland.
The OPA was identified by NYSERDA as an area of interest for potential development of offshore renewable energy projects. Data collected in the first year of the project helped support New York State’s effort to identify the area recommended to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BEOM) for consideration for siting new wind energy areas.
Data that has so far been collected is being used by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to assess the site and enhance understanding of seasonal wildlife distribution.
Twelve ultra-high-resolution surveys are being conducted by Normandeau Associates in collaboration with Apem Ltd, which specialises in ultra-high resolution offshore aerial surveys. The firm has now completed analysis of the sixth survey, marking the halfway point of the three-year project.
The survey supports Governor Cuomo’s mandate for half of the state’s electricity to come from renewable resources by 2030 and advances his ‘State of the State’ commitment that New York to issue two solicitations in 2018 and 2019 to secure a combined total of at least 800 MW of offshore wind power.