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    Tuesday, March 05, 2024

    Ørsted, Eversource funding Avery Point’s $1.25M study of offshore wind’s impact on marine life

    Groton ― Developers of Connecticut’s first offshore wind farm are providing the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point branch with a $1.25 million grant to fund a fisheries research program focusing on offshore wind’s impact on marine life.

    Representatives of Ørsted, the Danish energy company, and Eversource, partners in the Revolution Wind project, joined Avery Point faculty, state officials and lawmakers in hailing the collaboration Tuesday at an event at Branford House on the Avery Point campus.

    Revolution Wind, which the partners say will generate 704 megawatts of electricity, is expected to begin supplying power to more than 350,000 homes in Connecticut and Rhode Island in 2025, its turbines assembled and shipped from State Pier in New London to a site in the Atlantic Ocean 32 miles southeast of Connecticut, 15 miles south of Rhode Island and 12 miles southwest of Martha’s Vineyard.

    In August, the U.S. Department of the Interior approved Revolution Wind’s plan to erect up to 65 turbines and two offshore substations as part of the project.

    “Ørsted prioritizes coexistence with ocean users and marine wildlife as we develop and operate our offshore wind projects,” said Nicole Verdi, the company’s head of government affairs and policy in New England. “UConn is one of the top public institutions in the country, and we are proud to partner with UConn Avery Point on this critical research program that will provide valuable data to better inform the industry’s clean energy development efforts while protecting marine environments for the future,” she added.

    With assets that include R/V Connecticut, a 90-foot research vessel, and underwater vehicles, Avery Point, home of the state’s flagship oceanographic program, is well equipped to carry out the fisheries research, which launched during Avery Point’s current semester and will end in 2025, Evan Ward, professor and head of Avery Point’s marine sciences department, said.

    Students enrolled in other departments at Avery Point also are involved in the research, Ward said.

    State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, whose constituents include the fishermen who operate from the Town Dock and other Stonington Borough piers, noted the fishermen are concerned about the Revolution Wind project’s potential effect on the fish, lobster and scallops they catch.

    They view the wind farm and the offshore industry in general as an existential threat to their livelihoods, Somers said.

    Somers successfully pushed for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to issue a request for future offshore wind proposals that requires bidders to include an assessment of environmental impacts and contribute to a “mitigation fund” to offset any damage a project causes to commercial fisheries.

    In 2022, a landmark study of the impact of the first U.S. offshore wind farm, Ørsted’s Block Island Wind Farm, a five-turbine, 30-megawatt project that began operating in 2016, had no significant negative effect on fish living near the bottom of the sea.

    The Revolution Wind partners’ grant for the Avery Point study comes nearly 2½ years after Ørsted and Eversource announced a $1.25 million grant for Mystic Aquarium to fund internships, youth programs, animal rescue work and a new ocean wind energy exhibit, as well as $950,000 for Groton-based Project Oceanology to support the marine science nonprofit’s STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programming for students in kindergarten through 12th grade with a focus on climate change, energy generation and offshore wind.

    In December 2022, Ørsted and Eversource announced a multi-year partnership with Mystic Aquarium to conduct one of the nation’s first comprehensive studies of the effects of offshore wind turbines on marine mammals and sea turtles. The collaboration was part of the $1.25 million grant the partners had awarded the aquarium the previous year.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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