NYSERDA Wraps Up Year One of Aerial Wildlife Surveys

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has completed the first of three years of data collection via aerial surveys of birds and marine mammals in the state’s offshore wind area.

The study is being carried out by Normandeau Associates, Inc. and APEM Ltd. APEM has begun surveying for the project using a newly developed camera system, Shearwater III, which was developed to push image resolutions to as low as 0.5 cm resolution. APEM is carrying out the surveys and the images are then analyzed by Normandeau and APEM to identify birds and other marine species.

NYSERDA has pointed out that the vast majority of the images, more than 90% of them, show no birds or marine animals at or near the water surface. As the survey progresses, distribution of organisms will be evaluated for patterns to aid in identification of areas of lower biological activity where offshore wind development may be feasible.

NYSERDA is acquiring this regional-scale baseline information on seasonal wildlife distribution, abundance and movement over a 16,000-square mile area to aid in responsible offshore wind site assessment and project development.

A website has been developed for the project that allows the public to see some of the different animals that have been recorded. The aerial surveys are being conducted in coordination with other research, including visual surveys being conducted by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and federal entities.

The study is one of more than 20 NYSERDA is undertaking to provide current information about potential environmental and social sensitivities, economic and practical considerations, and regulatory requirements associated with offshore wind energy development. These studies cover topics such as fish and fisheries, marine wildlife, sediments, port infrastructure and permitting.

NYSERDA and other state agencies are currently developing the New York Offshore Wind Master Plan, due by the end of the year, to guide development.

Offshore wind is a key component of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s clean energy strategy, with a goal of building 2.4 gigawatts, NYSERDA said.