This story concerns the impact of construction of offshore wind farms. As technological advances improve wind turbines, and as outcries for renewable energy grow, states are finding room in their budgets for such large projects. New Jersey being one of them, the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced a proposed sale of commercial wind energy leases for 344,000 acres off the coast of Atlantic City. The need for a low carbon footprint and renewable energy is on many American’s minds, but what are the consequences for so much construction in virtually untouched areas? Could offshore wind farming have catastrophic effects? Conducting yearlong surveys of these intended areas, monitoring them by placing microphones and video cameras on the ocean floor, and proceeding with caution thereafter is what’s being recommended.
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, “How Offshore Wind Farms Affect Marine Species,” October 17th 2014 6:07am http://www.enn.com/wildlife/article/47946
Student Researcher: Fabio Filla, Indian River State College
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College
The ethical issue that this story raises is corporate greed in trying to capitalize off nature’s resources without taking into consideration the effects on marine life. The article cites a paper published by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science as a reference to all the possible consequences for offshore wind farming. It goes on to elaborate on how the introduction of transportation and survey equipment along with construction of pilings and cement could cover, disperse, or kill thousands of animals. In the construction alone the cement and pilings could destroy thousands of Benthic animals (shrimp, bivalves, polychaetes), all of which are indicators of that particular area’s faunal health.3 The noise pollution and harsh vibrations produced by the machines could disorientate, deafen, or make it difficult for large mammal navigation (whales and Dolphins). It is possible that the pilings and cement structure could become an artificial reef and, since the turbines are in a restricted area, there would be no fishing allowed and therefore would become a haven for many marine species. Just arbitrarily setting up enormous machinery like this and not taking into account the lives affected by it is unethical, and should not be allowed to proceed without yearlong ecological studies of its effects.
Although the article speculates on what could be the potential consequences for offshore wind farming, there haven’t been enough studies done on the subject to properly indicate what the impact could be. Really, there should be a cost/benefit analysis done to evaluate the use of offshore wind farming. There is and will always be a cost for manufacturing anything and if the overall satisfaction can be achieved with causing the least amount of negative consequences, then the project can be justified. As it stands now the alternative methods of manufacturing energy, hydro fracking, coal mining, and conventional oil drilling, are extremely hazardous to both the environment and the people who are involved.
After conducting a careful cost-benefit analysis, it may turn out that the damage to the environment would be minimal in comparison to conventional energy sources and could be managed more effectively. The ethics alert here is that, in the interest of maximizing their profits, the corporations are likely to proceed without doing the recommended preliminary environmental studies and taking the appropriate precautions to protect the environment. If these money interests can profit off of clean energy over conventional energy by cutting corners, then they will do so; otherwise the current energy crisis won’t even matter to them.