The marine waters of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) of the United States (U.S.) are rich in biological resources that may be sensitive to offshore floating wind (OFW) development. Because water depths become extremely deep at short distances from U.S. west coast and near the Hawaiian Islands shore, the use of monopole and other offshore wind technologies found in other parts of the U.S. and in Europe are precluded. In the near future, OFW construction and operation may commence, including the associated supporting activities such as various surveys, wind resource measurements and vessel traffic. This combination of potentially sensitive resources and potential impacts due to OFW construction and operation increases the risk for potentially harmful effects on the environment. In addition, OFW turbines are a relatively new application of older technologies (land-based wind and mobile offshore drilling units). A limited number of pilot programs are currently in place including pilot programs in Japan, Norway, Scotland, and Portugal. Nonetheless, uncertainty exists over how OFW development will impact the environment or particular species and populations in proposed areas of development. The general objectives of this study were to conduct a scoping-level analysis of relative risk to help to identify and prioritize areas of risk to species and habitat, as well as ecological resources at risk to renewable energy development. The Offshore Floating Wave Environmental Sensitivity Analysis (OFWESA) model was developed for this study to help assess the potential effects of the site assessment, construction, and operations and maintenance of OFW on the nation’s marine and coastal environmental resources. The major objectives of this study were to:
- Identify and define the potential impact-causing factors (ICFs) associated with all phases and components of OFW development;
- Revise and expand the previous BOEM Relative Environmental Sensitivity Assessment model with the OFWESA model to make it applicable to OFW technologies analyzed at a smaller spatial scale with additional parameters;
- Implement an initial iteration of the revised OFWESA model to analyze the environmental sensitivity of three study areas offshore of California and Hawaii; and
- Identify the species, habitats, seasons, and regions that are potentially most sensitive to various ICFs of OFW for further study.
This study was split into two volumes, which can be found here: