After a baleen whale was found washed ashore close to the offshore wind farm Block Island, many supporters and adversaries of wind energy have spoken up.
According to some anti-wind lobbyists, the wind project was to blame for the whale’s early demise, however, extensive research shows that offshore wind has no impact on sea life whatsoever, especially baleen whales (the type found ashore).
In fact, researchers from the University of Rhode Island recently wrote a[response] to The Newport Buzz’ article entitled “Block Island Wind Farm May Have Killed Young Humpback Whale”.
Bob Kenney, Ph.D, and Jim Miller, Sc.D, felt compelled to write to the editors in order to dispel any rumours or myths about wind’s affect on aquatic mammals, and “why it is highly unlikely the whale’s death had anything at all to do with a turbine from the Block Island Wind Farm”.
As part of their response, they outlined three key facts on how human technology interacts with marine animals:
1) Low Wind Farm Noise: The noise from the Block Island Wind Farm wind turbines has been measured at about 100 underwater decibels (dB) at a range of about 50 meters. This is very low and only detectable when ships are not nearby and when the wind is not too strong.
2) Construction is Long Past: Pile driving occurred in August, September and October of 2015 for the wind farm and is almost certainly not the cause of the recent strandings of humpback whales.
3) Whales Themselves are Louder than Turbines: The source levels of social calls of humpback whales have been measured to be 123 to 183 underwater dB at 1 meter. Scientists have measured fin whale vocalizations near the Block Island Wind Farm at more than 140 underwater dB at a range of 500 meters and this agrees with published work that shows the source level of fin whales to be more than 180 underwater dB.
Additionally, many sources have claimed that the Unusual Mortality Events (UME) of humpback whales have become more common as a result of the offshore wind project, which is completely untrue.
Both Kenney and Miller closed their letter by writing: “It’s important that people care for ocean animals and other issues, but they need the best available science in order to do so.”
Any conversations around offshore wind, or wind energy in general, should be based on facts and reality so we can continue to dispel myths and better support renewable energy sources in order to save our planet.