Dec 4, 2010

Ocean WindRush boosters should look before leaping offshore.

The federal decision to fast-track the siting of  ocean windmills off  the US mid Atlantic and New England coasts ("Smart from the Start")  risks leaving many environmental issues that could affect the future of Maine fisheries environment  unexplored until irretrievable commitments are made.

To make things worse, New England Fishery Management Council, which has been spending years developing Essential Fish Habitat protection in these same waters, has washed its hands of the issue and will not represent the commercial fishermen's interests in the federal ocean wind process.

Organizations like CLF, NRCM & Environment Maine too, are doing nobody any good. Their uncritical endorsement of the Obama Adminstration's decision to weaken marine environmental laws in order to "expedite" the leasing and permitting of offshore windpower extraction, runs counter to their own mission statements of conserving Maine's and the Gulf of Maine's living marine resources.

CLF should know better; the latter two organizations have very little experience with ocean conservation issues  Both of them, however also vigorously supported weakening of Maine's  land conservation laws, in order to "expedite" the permitting and licensing of  mountaintops for windpower extraction  by large absentee energy companies. Unsurprisingly, all three organizations take money from the wind power industry

 All three ENGOs have fallen prey to an end-justifies-the-means philosophy which holds that  the  Carbon Crisis requires we literally destroy our villages locally to save them globally. A noble sentiment;  but one not necessarily shared by a majority of the villagers whose lives and livelihoods they so blithely propose to alter.  they so blithely

For a windrush is ON.  Windfarm-able ocean zones are proposed from Maine, in the path of the  Eastern Maine Coastal Current, and all the way down the Atlantic coast to Florida, where the Gulf Stream itself may be affected as it passes through vast  ocean windfarms planned off along the south Atlantic  and midAtlantic coasts.
 We know ocean windmills generate fogbanks. We also know that something happens to ocean hydrology when all that energy is diverted away from the intended Ekman Transport into the water column - the force that puts windpower into the ocean, but we aren't surewhow much.

But the stakes are large For instance, one of the areas proposed for ocean windfarming off Maine is in the route of a current that transports  lobster larvae from waters off Lubec south to Penobscot Bay.

Will diverting any of that current east into the Gulf of Maine's deep basins take a lot of larvae with it? NRCM, Environment Maine and other groups need to look before they blindly leap onboard the federal offshore windrush.

We've seen the results when other newly exploited marine resources get piled on by everyone who can afford to be out there. Unless other states follow Maine's lead of promoting floating deepwater windmills, well offshore, states will find it impossible to reposition ocean windfarms if they are found later to destabilize the Atlantic coast's currents.

Natural Resources Council of Maine,  Environment Maine and other land conservation groups groups should proceed with caution when entering ocean wind energy policy issues.

* On the influence of large wind farms on the upper ocean circulation Göran Broström, NMI

Another Brostrom piece summarizing the first one.
Merete B. Christiansen and Charlotte B. Hasager, Risoe National Laboratory,  Denmark
Excerpt: "Wake effects were observed for downstream distances of 5-20 km, depending on the ambient wind speed, the atmospheric stability and the fraction of turbines operating during SAR data acquisitions."

*Wind power could alter currents:  Discovery News story

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