Frequently Asked Questions

How do the world’s oceans support life on this planet?

The Oceans:

Produce half of the oxygen we breathe

More than half of the oxygen we breathe comes from ocean photosynthesizers, like phytoplankton and seaweed.

Maintain Biodiversity

Biodiversity is critical for healthy ecosystems and declining biodiversity is an even greater risk to human health than climate change. Human development and industry is the greatest threat to biodiversity.

Suffer from industrialization

Industrializing the oceans, whether with deep sea mining, offshore wind power plants, tidal energy power plants, or oil and gas extraction, harms all marine life including fish, whales, plankton, and birds; decreases biodiversity; creates harmful sediment plumes; and changes ocean currents.

Wind Energy Questions

Are offshore wind energy projects "green"?

Offshore wind energy generation will not significantly reduce CO2 emissions. Wind energy production requires backup, either by storing energy in battery systems, or by using coal- or gas-fueled power plants when the wind is not blowing. Wind energy power plants require huge inputs of energy and materials—for the turbines, the bases, the cables used to secure them, the substations, the electricity cables, the ships used to maintain them, the batteries, and more—and this front loads the CO2 emissions associated with wind energy projects.

Offshore wind turbines and associated infrastructure have a particularly large carbon footprint compared to other sources of electricity generation, in part due to the mining and refining required for rare earth metals and energy required for steel production.

Will offshore wind energy projects combat climate change or mitigate the ecological crisis?

No.

There is no evidence to show that offshore wind energy will help to combat climate change. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has stated in the Environmental Impact Statements for two different East Coast projects, Vineyard Wind and Revolution Wind, that offshore energy projects will have “no collective impact on global warming” and  “no measurable influence on climate change.”

In addition to the high carbon emissions in the supply chains for the materials to build wind turbines and the associated infrastructure, wind energy power plants require continuous backup systems, usually in the form of coal or gas power plants. These power plants are energy intensive to power up and down, and generate far more CO2 emissions than if they run continuously.

Nor is there evidence to suggest that wind energy will reduce the use of fossil fuels. York and Bell (2019) write that “Evidence from contemporary trends in energy production suggest that as renewable energy sources compose a larger share of overall energy production, they are not replacing fossil fuels but are rather expanding the overall amount of energy that is produced.”

Offshore wind turbines will not help mitigate the ecological crisis. Wind turbines and associated infrastructure requires enormous amounts of energy and materials to build. Mining the materials to build wind turbines and infrastructure destroys the land and produces toxic waste. Refining those materials also produces toxic waste. Manufacturing the turbines, bases, cables, substations, grid lines, and ships to install and maintain them, etc. is all harmful to the environment. Installing a wind energy power plant is harmful to the environment. Ongoing pollution from wind turbines, including oil and lubricants leaking from nacelles, and microplastics shedding from turbine blades and paint are just two of the ongoing direct impacts of wind energy projects. Wind energy power plants disturb and directly harm wildlife at all phases: testing, installing, maintaining, and ongoing energy production.

Building wind turbines and solar panels to generate electricity requires, on average, more than 10 times the quantity of materials, compared with building machines using fossil fuels to deliver the same amount of energy to society. This is not an argument for fossil fuels by any means; it is simply an acknowledgement of the huge materials impact of wind turbines, and thus the huge impact to the environment required to build these machines.

Thus, it is more likely that offshore wind turbines and associated infrastructure will make the ecological crisis far worse.

Do offshore wind energy projects hurt marine mammals?

Wind turbines and associated infrastructure both directly and indirectly hurt marine mammals and invertebrates. Noise and other forms of energy, such as man-made electromagnetic fields, are known to impact both marine mammals and invertebrates. Seismic testing of the ocean floor creates sound that can kill marine mammals; sound from additional ship noise to install and maintain wind turbines, substations, and cables is highly likely to disturb marine ecosystems.

Ongoing noise and vibrations from turbines, especially vibrations from turning blades, and anchoring cables dragging along the ocean floor, could potentially be detrimental to many marine species. Seabed substrates can propagate seismic interference waves. Underwater sounds can extend over large periods of time, increasing background noise making it more difficult for marine species to communicate and listen for food sources, as well as cause severe hearing and other damage from short and intense sounds from sonar, pile driving, anchor drops, and more.

Floating offshore wind turbines are anchored to the seabed with massive anchors, and long chains to hold the turbine base in place. A portion of each chain rests on the seabed floor, and move as ocean currents, waves, and wind move turbine base on the ocean surface. This creates huge sediment plumes that can disrupt marine ecosystems and kill marine species sensitive to water clarity.

Wind turbines create a “wake effect” that can alter wind and currents between the turbines and the shoreline. Many marine ecosystems are highly dependent on natural currents, and altering these currents could damage or destroy the sensitive ecology of these ecosystems.

In short, yes, offshore wind energy projects cause significant, irreversible environmental damage to marine ecosystems.

Do offshore wind energy projects hurt birds?

Yes. Multiple studies have shown that wind turbines are harmful to birds (and bats) due to collisions with wind turbines. A study of impacts to birds from wind energy projects in India (2022) states that:

The fatalities due to direct collision with the rotor blades of a wind turbine, the displacement or avoidance of animals due to the construction process and the noise generated by the wind turbines, the persistence of disturbance, and habitat loss caused by the construction of wind farms and their associated infrastructure are all considered to have a negative impact on wildlife.

Sound can also impact wildlife, including birds. A 2022 paper on the impacts of noise pollution from wind turbines on wildlife notes that the sound frequencies emitted from turbines is well within the hearing range of birds:

Sound frequency is also important when addressing Wind Turbine Noise (WTN) effects on wildlife, since WTN is usually characterized by a broad band range, with changes in the WTN spectrum observed in the frequency range of 200–5000 Hz, which overlaps with the hearing range of many wildlife species, particularly birds.

The study describes evidence that WTN can cause damaging effects on wildlife:

Turbine blades at normal operating speeds can generate levels of sound beyond ambient background levels. Construction and maintenance activities can also contribute to sound levels by affecting communication distance, an animal’s ability to detect calls or danger, or to forage. Sound associated with developments can also cause behavioral and physiological effects, damage to hearing from acoustic over-exposure, and masking of communication signals and other biologically relevant sounds (Dooling & Popper, 2007). Some birds are able to shift their vocalizations to reduce the masking effects of noise. However, when shifts don’t occur or are insignificant, masking may prove detrimental to the health and survival of wildlife (Barber et al., 2010).

The risks to birds from wind turbines are many, including collision with turbines, disturbance and displacement from traditional habitat range and migration routes due to infrastructure, additional boat traffic, noise, and electromagnetic radiation, alteration of feeding and breeding habits, and stress.

You can read more about the pelagic seabirds of the Pacific Northwest who are likely to be most impacted by offshore wind turbines on our Birds page.

What kind of offshore wind technology will be used in the PNW?

TBD about floating offshore wind tech summary. Point to separate floating offshore wind tech page.

Could offshore wind energy projects hurt recreational and commercial fishing?

Yes. Organizations including Oregon Natural Resource Industries, Protect U.S. Fishermen, West Coast Seafood Processors Association, the Yoruk Tribe, the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria, Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria, the Tolowi Dee-ni’ Nation, and the Tribal Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians are all opposed to offshore wind energy development because of the potential harms to fisheries.

Current and Tidal Energy Questions

Are tidal and current energy projects green?

No.

Tidal and current energy projects use industrial machines to generate electricity. These industrial machines are made using materials that must be mined and refined using large amounts of energy, and built in factories that must be built from concrete and steel, and that use large amounts of energy. Energy is expended transporting, installing, maintaining, and eventually decommissioning the machines. All these activities have heavy impacts on the natural world, destroying habitat, killing wildlife, threatening species both on land (at mines, refineries, factories, and on roads) and in the sea (where the machines, anchoring cables, electrical cables, and increased boating traffic for maintenance likely have a large impact on the marine environment).

None of this is “green” in any way.

While electricity generated from tidal and current energy machines is easier to predict than wind and solar power, it might not match demand for energy. If high tide is at noon, tidal electricity will be produced at noon, while peak energy demand is in the morning and evening. To deal with this mismatch, tidal energy machines will need to be paired with battery storage that can store the energy until it’s needed. Batteries require materials that must also be mined and refined, and mining for batteries for EVs and grid storage is expected to require approximately 385 new mines to meet 2035 demand.

Will offshore tidal and current projects combat climate change or mitigate the ecological crisis?

No.

As with offshore wind energy, there is no evidence tidal energy will reduce the use of fossil fuels. York and Bell (2019) write that “Evidence from contemporary trends in energy production suggest that as renewable energy sources compose a larger share of overall energy production, they are not replacing fossil fuels but are rather expanding the overall amount of energy that is produced.”

More energy supply leads to more energy use, more development, and more habitat loss, all of which worsens climate change and the ecological crisis.

Do offshore tidal and current energy projects hurt marine life?

Yes.

Any large industrial machine placed into a marine environment can cause disruption or death of marine life. Spinning underwater turbine blades may injure or kill marine species. A large array of floating tidal machines, or a tidal barrage (dams built across tidal rivers, bays, and estuaries to form a tidal basin; turbines inside the barrage enable the basin to fill during incoming tides and release through the system during outgoing tides, generating electricity in both directions) can restrict the movement of species and disrupt an entire estuary or coastal ecosystem.

The electrical cables and spinning turbines on tidal energy machines generate electromagnetic fields and noise that can disrupt or injure marine life, particularly animals that use echolocation.

Mechanical devices usually leak lubricants. We know that even a tiny amount of oil can injure or even kill marine life. Oil can cause significant burns, eye irritation, neurological problems, lung damage, and loss of fur or feather weatherproofing, leading to hypothermia and freezing.

Saltwater is extremely corrosive. 24/7 exposure to saltwater and rough weather will likely cause erosion of machine components, leaching toxic contaminants including plastics and heavy metals into the marine environment. 

Oil and Gas Energy Questions

TBD

TBD

Port Expansion Questions

TBD

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