Wind power is one of the most valuable sources of clean energy today. One problem that proponents of clean energy have faced is the fact that wind turbines occupy a lot of space. Supporters of clean energy were thrilled to discover technology that now allows us to create offshore farms of wind turbines, turning previously unused space into powerhouses creating electricity.

However, there is a lot that we do not know about the affect of these offshore wind farms on the wildlife that live in our oceans. This has prompted a study by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science researcher Helen Bailey and her colleagues on the potential impacts these wind farms might have on marine life and recommendations for the future.

“As the number and size of offshore wind developments increases, there is a growing need to consider the consequences and cumulative impacts of these activities on marine species” said Helen Bailey, lead author of the report. “It is essential to identify where whales, dolphins and other species occur to help adverse impacts and to continue to monitor their response to the construction and operation of wind turbines.”

Loud sounds created by the wind turbines can cause hearing damage, mask communication, or disorient wildlife in the area of the wind farms. There is also the persistent threat of marine animal-boat collisions; an increased amount of traffic, from boats used to maintain the turbines, might result in the deaths of more marine creatures.

Though there are discrete benefits to wind turbines for marine life. The presence of wind turbines would most likely provide “safe havens” for marine life in the sense that commercial fishing (or nearly any boat traffic) would not be permitted in wind turbine fields. So, when compared to the amount of repair vessels used on the turbines, marine life in these areas might actually be safer in terms of colliding with ships.

Few studies have measured the short-term effects of wind farms on marine life and none have measured their long-term effects. However, there will be one such study later this year. The study will occur off the coast of Maryland, where microphones will be anchored to the ocean floor and record two years worth of whale sounds. The hope is to use these recordings to create better strategies for eliminating manmade noise that disrupts communication between whales.

For more information about the University of Maryland’s study, click here.

What do you think about offshore wind farming?