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Picking the Right Spot

How scientists find the best places to put future wind energy sites in the ocean.

Wind Energy Area Biological Surveys

What does biology have to do with wind energy? Quite a lot! This video explains how scientists carefully study underwater areas to map out the best locations for potential future wind energy projects.

The outer continental shelf of North Carolina supports some of the best conditions for potential offshore wind energy in the southeast United States. However, there are potential impacts to sensitive marine ecosystems from construction of offshore energy facilities. NOAA and partners are studying the hardbottom rocky reefs that serve as essential habitats for valuable fish species to better understand these unique offshore ecosystems.

The researchers use hydrographic sonar survey methods to map depth and texture of the seafloor geological features. Man-made objects on the seafloor, such as shipwrecks and artificial reefs, are also studied. Together, these objects and seafloor formations create habitats for fishes to find food or hide from predators. These areas are excellent habitats for diving, as well as for commercial and recreational fishing. Using imagery, divers can locate and document the types and abundance of fishes and sharks. The findings from these studies are used to review the size and boundaries of potential wind energy areas to minimize impacts to sensitive seafloor habitats.

Partners in this project include NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences, and Geodynamics Group LLC.

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Barrow offshore wind farm (UK)

Designed to harness the energy potential of the Earth's ocean winds, all wind power facilities in the United States are currently located on land, however several offshore projects have recently been proposed. There are several offshore wind farms already in operation throughout Europe. Learn more.

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