Concerns about the impacts of climate change have led to efforts to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. This requires a switch from the production of electricity from fossil fuel combustion to renewable sources. Wind energy is Maryland’s most abundant natural energy resource and can provide cleaner, homegrown energy.
Although wind power is an important source of renewable energy, there are some concerns about the environmental impacts of wind turbines. Understanding and mitigating against environmental impacts requires a baseline knowledge about the distribution and abundance of marine species and their habitats. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science has a broad range of expertise and a long history of research in the region that makes it exceptionally qualified for studying the environmental impacts of wind energy.
Impact of wind turbines on birds and bats
- Risk of death from direct collisions with the rotors and the pressure effects of vortices.
- There is also a risk of displacement from the area causing changes in migration routes and loss of quality habitat.
Impact of offshore wind developments on marine life
- Noise is produced during the construction and installation of offshore wind farms from increased boat activity in the area and procedures such as pile-driving. The sound levels from pile-driving, when the turbine is hammered to the seabed, are particularly high. This is potentially harmful to marine species and have been of greatest concern to marine mammal species, such as endangered whales.
- The noise and vibration of construction and operation of the wind turbines can be damaging to fish and other marine species.
- Construction activities at the wind power site and the installation of undersea cables to transmit the energy to shore can have direct effects on the seabed and sediments, which can affect the abundance and diversity of benthic organisms.
- Disturbance of the seafloor may also increase turbidity, which could affect plankton in the water column.
There are also potentially some environmental benefits of offshore wind farms. The turbines may act as “artificial reefs” and increase biological productivity in the vicinity. The presence of hard structures can provide habitat for barnacles, sponges, and other invertebrates, which may locally increase fish abundance. These processes can consequently result in attracting predators higher up the food chain.
The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science has a broad range of expertise and a long history of research in the region that makes it exceptionally qualified for studying the environmental impacts of wind energy.
Helen Bailey, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory — Marine mammal and sea turtle ecology
Emily Cohen, Appalachian Laboratory – Bird ecology
David Nelson, Appalachian Laboratory — Bat and ecosystem ecology
David Secor, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory — Fish ecology and fisheries science