Offshore wind is a relatively new and growing industry in the United States (U.S.). In Europe, offshore wind development began in the early 1990s, more than a decade earlier than in the U.S. Similarly, research, studies, and analysis of direct impacts to avian species from offshore wind in Europe have been conducted for a longer period of time. A growing number of U.S. offshore wind leases are coming available in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). With this, offshore wind projects are developing Construction and Operation Plans (COP) for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses are being conducted. Project stakeholders, nonprofit organizations, and the public are also showing increasing interest in impacts to avian species from offshore wind.
Impacts from offshore wind energy on avian species generally result from the following two aspects:
• Location—where the offshore wind facility (OWF) is located in relation to avian species. This includes proximity to shore, breeding colonies, feeding areas, and migration pathways—long distance seasonal migration (fall-spring) or movement between onshore and offshore habitat such as feeding areas.
• Turbine size—specifically, the distance from sea level to the span of the turbine blades. Avian species that fly below or above this area will have fewer collision-related impacts than those that fly within the same airspace as turbine blades.
To assist in understanding the aspects of avian research in the U.S. and Europe in relationship to OWFs, it is helpful to understand the progression of offshore wind energy in both places. This paper provides a brief history of offshore wind in Europe and the U.S., specifically in the Atlantic OCS. As an early adopter of offshore wind, the progression of the offshore wind industry in Europe can be observed in the growth in size of wind facilities and turbine technology advances from the early 1990s to present day. Conversely, the first OWF in the U.S. began generating electricity in 2016.
The differences between the U.S. and Europe offshore wind development are described in Section 2. The differences in the development of offshore wind between Europe and the U.S. are important to understand when using the European experience to design avian research projects in the U.S. and conduct impact analyses of offshore wind on the OCS. A literature review and summary of avian research and impacts of offshore wind from Europe and potential impacts in the U.S. follows in Section 3. Both the U.S. and Europe recognized the importance of baseline studies, especially when determining impacts from OWFs. Avian migration patterns, flight height, habitat associations, and species seasonal density estimates are topics of growing interest and research development over the past 20 years. By understanding where avian species occur, which offshore locations are most important for life histories, and determining flight height and flight paths, impacts to avian species from offshore wind can be effectively reduced. As additional data is collected, future offshore wind projects can potentially be developed with fewer impacts to avian species.