Sound Levels Recorded at Wind Farm Site
Federal officials are studying variable impacts posed by the construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm off Nantucket, Massachusetts. Studies include fish stocks, water and air quality, airplane and boat navigation, migrating birds and whales, and electric magnetic fields. One major component that needs further study is sound. Two scientists from Woods hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is turning their attention to the impacts from the sound made by the wind farm. Sound travels faster and further through water than air. Many animals use sound to perceive their environment. Sounds made by humans influence animals, and loud sounds have a detrimental effect. In March WHOI biologists began recording a 25-square-mile area between Nantucket and Cape Cod. The area is where Cape Wind plans to erect 130 440-foot-high turbines. Scientists plan to measure underwater sounds at the site before, during, and after construction. WHOI biologists Aran Mooeny and Laela Sayigh are conducting these first-of-its-kind experiments. “When Aran suggested monitoring the Cape Wind site, I thought, ‘That seems pretty basic-it’s right in our backyard, and it’s such an obvious way to get a sense of what’s out there.’ We are looking not just at marine mammal sounds, but also fish sounds, boat noise, and more,” said Sayigh. The study is funded by Woods Hole Sea Grant with a contribution from the WHOI Coastal Ocean Institute, will continue for at least two years. The researchers hope to keep monitoring a year longer, to include pre-construction, construction, and operational phases of the wind turbines. This type of underwater sound monitoring has not been done at offshore wind farms elsewhere according to Mooney and Sayigh.