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Offshore wind energy is widely regarded as one of the most promising sources of renewable energy. Renewable energy, often referred to as clean energy, is energy produced from sources that are naturally replenished and will not run out. Wind, sun, and geothermal heat are examples of renewable energy. Non-renewable energy, in contrast, comes from finite sources that can get used up. Examples of non-renewable energy include fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Renewable energy benefits people, the planet, and the economy. Renewable energy sources produce less pollution, less CO2 (the atmospheric gas that is the leading cause of climate change), more price stability, and more energy security.

Connecticut has committed to investing in clean energy, with the goal of 100% zero-carbon electric supply by 2040. Offshore wind is an important part of this goal. Ørsted and Eversource launched a venture to develop an offshore windfarm, Revolution Wind off the Connecticut coast. Revolution Wind will be located more than 32 miles southeast of the coast and will generate 304 megawatts of offshore wind energy for the state of Connecticut and is expected to begin commercial operations in 2025. A second windfarm project, Park City Wind is being developed by Avangrid. Park City Wind, named after the City of Bridgeport, is being built in an area 22 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. When complete, Park City Wind will generate 804 megawatts of offshore wind energy.

Renewable energy, often referred to as clean energy, is energy produced from sources that are naturally replenished and will not run out. Offshore wind energy is widely regarded as one of the most promising sources of renewable energy.

What do we need to know?

Although there are many benefits to using wind as a reusable energy source, there are questions about the impacts of windfarms on local environments and wildlife. To date, the impacts of offshore wind power systems, both during construction and in its operational phases, on marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and the ecosystem are not well understood.

Mystic Aquarium Offshore Wind Energy Research

Mystic Aquarium is conducting several studies on the effects of offshore wind energy on marine animals and the environment. These research projects include:

  • Stress and Metabolism: This project is evaluating the effects of offshore wind power systems on the physiology of pinnipeds (e.g., harbor and gray seals), cetaceans (e.g., belugas, right whales), and sea turtles. The research team is establishing a baseline (healthy, non-stressed levels) of hormones and genes related to immune health and metabolism, which will be compared to noninvasively collected samples from wild populations of these animals near and away from the offshore windfarms to determine if there are any changes.
  • Windfarms and Strandings: Mystic Aquarium researchers are monitoring and documenting the incidence and cause (if known) of marine mammal and sea turtle strandings before, during, and after the construction of the wind farms, as well as during their operation. These data will be compared to Mystic Aquarium’s historical database of strandings to see if there is any change in stranding incidence, location, cause, etc..
  • Tracking Behavior: Mystic Aquarium researchers will tag seals and sea turtles that come to the Animal Rescue Clinic for rehabilitation before they are released back into the wild. The behavior and location of these animals before, during, and after wind farm construction will be assessed.
  • Environmental DNA of Marine Animals: Researchers at Mystic Aquarium are developing a method to analyze environmental DNA (DNA that can be extracted from a water sample) to determine if a certain species of marine mammal or turtle has been in the area recently. 
  • Assessing Trade-Offs: The ocean is rich in both living and non-living resources. The ocean is also used extensively for commercial and recreational activities, and these activities can conflict with conservation efforts. Mystic Aquarium researchers are part of a national team that is creating a model that will predict how offshore wind energy development will affect the environment and its resources. Results from this model will help develop a management plan for offshore windfarms here in Connecticut and across the country.