'Environmental Pollutant' - How A Key Climate Agenda Tool Harms Endangered Species

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Monday, Apr 29, 2024 - 07:30 AM

Authored by Donna Anderson via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

As the Biden administration expands its offshore wind projects as part of its goal to reach a carbon-free energy system, whales and other marine life may become collateral damage, according to new research.

(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Shutterstock, Getty Images)

Two independent studies measuring ocean wind turbine construction noise found that the sound emitted by vessels mapping the seafloor was significantly louder than estimated, and that noise protection for whales and other sea creatures during wind turbine pile driving doesn’t work.

Intense noise causes hearing loss in whales, other marine mammals, turtles, and fish, compromising their ability to navigate, avoid danger, detect predators, and find prey, according to scientific studies.

Robert Rand, an acoustics consultant with 44 years of experience, took underwater readings of the sonar survey vessel Miss Emma McCall off the coast of New Jersey. He also recorded acoustic readings of pile driving for Vineyards Wind 1, an offshore wind farm project under construction 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

In his pile-driving report, published March 28, Mr. Rand found that even the most advanced sound-dampening technologies didn’t adequately control harmful noise. The pounding was just as loud as seismic air gun arrays used for oil and gas exploration, long known to cause injury, hearing loss, and behavioral changes in fish and marine mammals.

Furthermore, the noise made by the construction vessel itself, which is not monitored, was almost as loud as the pile driving. Mr. Rand found that the standard formula used by the National Marine Fisheries Service to calculate how noise, over a period of time, affects a mammal’s hearing, significantly underestimates the sound levels experienced by dolphins and whales.

“These are real data,” Mr. Rand, who testified at a Congressional field hearing on January 20, told The Epoch Times. “I measured it. This is not a computer model. This is not a political press release. These are data.”

Many environmentalists fear that noise related to ocean wind farm construction is contributing to “unusual mortality events” affecting whales. From 2016 through April this year, 220 humpback whales have died, according to data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“Elevated humpback whale mortalities have occurred along the Atlantic coast from Maine through Florida,” since 2016, the NOAA states.

The NOAA also reported an “unusual mortality event” for North Atlantic right whales, in which 126 have died since 2017.

“The numbers have been decreasing, especially since 2017, when offshore operations really swung into gear,” Mr. Rand said.

From my experience in noise control, that’s not a coincidence. Noise is an environmental pollutant. In human terms, it’s measured in life years lost.”

The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium estimates 350 North Atlantic right whales exist in the world’s oceans today.

Pile-Driving Noise

On Nov. 2, 2023, Mr. Rand went out on a 29-foot sport fishing boat to the Vineyard Wind 1 construction site.

The completed wind farm project will comprise 62 wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean, spaced one nautical mile apart. The project is estimated to provide power to more than 400,000 homes and businesses.

Giant wind turbine blades for the Vineyard Winds project are stacked on large racks in the harbor, in New Bedford, Mass., on July 11, 2023. At left is the Palmer Island Lighthouse. (Charles Krupa/AP Photo)

The offshore wind farm is owned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners of Denmark and Avangrid Renewables, part of the Spanish company, Iberdrola.

At the construction site in November 2023, Mr. Rand said an 874-foot crane ship called the Orion was using a massive hammer to pound a monopile foundation for a wind turbine into the seabed.

The monopile is a steel pipe 31 feet in diameter, 279 feet long, and weighs 1,895 tons, according to the manufacturer, EEW Special Pipe Constructions.

Vineyard Wind 1 implemented two sets of noise controls. The first is a “hydro sound damper,” which Mr. Rand said, is a vertical net in the water around the monopile that’s covered with foam or rubber blocks and balls.

The second is a “double bubble” curtain. These are two weighted hoses lying on the seafloor in concentric circles around the monopile. The radius is roughly 492 to 656 feet.

The hoses have holes in them, and compressed air from a support vessel is forced through the hoses, causing bubbles to rise to the surface. The bubbles are supposed to mitigate the sound pressure created by the pile driving.

“These are advanced techniques,” Mr. Rand said. “They aren’t used anywhere else.”

Unfortunately, the noise mitigation techniques don’t work, he said.

Mr. Rand dropped a research-grade, omnidirectional hydrophone into the water at six locations, starting at 4.10 nautical miles from the pile driving and moving closer to 0.57 nautical miles.

Analyzing the data, Mr. Rand found that even with sophisticated noise mitigation in place, the pile driving is as loud as multiple seismic air guns.

“People have been protesting and the government has been rigorously regulating seismic air gun arrays for years, if not decades, because of their sonic intensity and hazard for endangered species—for whales and other marine species,” Mr. Rand said.

This pile driving is as loud as an array of air guns.

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