Green Light for Largest Offshore Wind Project in the U.S. is a Hopeful Restart for Birds

The revived Vineyard Wind Project will be a powerful force for reducing emissions, protecting both people and wildlife from the effects of climate change.

The Biden-Harris administration has taken early action to reinitiate the largest offshore wind project to date in the United States. The Vineyard Wind I project will deliver 800MW of energy to up to 800,000 homes. The project fits well with the climate solutions set forth by the new administration in its first 100 days and with Audubon’s climate goals, and consequently offshore wind has a fresh and hopeful restart.

We say hopeful, because, contrary to what you might have heard, wind energy can be a powerful factor in protecting the birds that we love, and the places that both people and wildlife need to survive. Audubon’s climate science tells us that 389 species of birds in North America – or about two-thirds -- are threatened with extinction if we don’t slow the current rate of global temperature rise. Offshore wind is critical to meeting our zero-carbon goals to protect the billions of birds we stand to lose if significant action is not taken right away.

As the Biden Administration fast-tracks the environmental review of the Vineyard Wind I project that was suspended in December, it is critical that the project is properly reviewed and sited to avoid, minimize, and mitigate environmental impacts. There are several factors that must be addressed. Among them are:

  • Measures to estimate impacts to marine birds and migratory birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA), prioritizing endangered Roseate Tern, Red Knot and Piping Plover;
  • Best Management Practices (BMPs) and other measures to avoid and minimize impacts to these birds; and
  • New technologies to monitor the presence of these birds in the project site and their interactions with the turbines, including collision and displacement, and using standardized data collection before and during construction, and during operation for comparison across all projects in the Atlantic.

The stars are rapidly lining up for rapid deployment of offshore wind in the United States. The Omnibus Bill passed by Congress includes a 30% tax credit for offshore wind. The Biden Administration has rapidly made new appointments in the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that promise more efficient permitting and cross agency coordination. Climate change action is now a priority.

And best of all for birds, the Biden Administration has put a hold on the bird-killing policy  promulgated by the former administration that would have severely weakened the 102-year-old MBTA.

We look forward to seeing the environmental review of the Vineyard Wind I project, and hopefully to usher in a cleaner future for both people and wildlife.