Winds of Change
Last week, in collaboration with the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, COL held our fifth annual Industry Forum, Navigating Development of U.S. Offshore Wind: Sustainability and Co-Existence Through Science. Offshore wind is a new and rapidly growing segment of the U.S. energy sector, currently in states along the East Coast of the United States, with future development projected in California and the Hawaiian Islands. Investments over the last half decade are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and the power generated by offshore wind will be key to meeting our future energy needs. However, there are still many unanswered questions as to how this renewable energy source could impact marine life, ocean characteristics, and other marine use communities. With an ultimate goal of sustainable coexistence of offshore renewable energy and existing uses, such as fisheries and protections for wildlife, what science and technology are needed to get there?
One of my takeaways from the day was that we really need three things if a substantial U.S. offshore wind industry is to become a reality: collaboration, innovation, and localization, all of which must be underpinned by science. I’ll let you read about the latter two points in our forthcoming proceedings document that will be posted on our website when completed, but I want to emphasize that time and time again when our community gathers to tackle these issues, participants always come back to the critical importance of partnerships and collaborations.
Our Industry Forum itself exists to address this need by getting stakeholders from industry, federal government, NGOs, and more into the same room to talk, facilitating dialogues that may not have been possible otherwise so we can break down all the complexities of these issues. The conversations that start here between marine technologists and fisheries scientists, or between federal marine spatial planners and environmental advocates, are exactly the kind of discussions that need to happen for us to fill our scientific gaps (or even know what our scientific gaps are) and make informed decisions about offshore wind. Likewise, we need to ensure these collaborations lead to more efficient decision making around the need for renewable energy sources since we can’t wait forever for the go/no go decision on U.S. offshore wind. We, as a community, need to step up and ensure this discussion advances in a productive and fully inclusive manner, and I believe COL is the perfect organization to lead the way on this important topic — after all, “collaboration” starts with COL.
These conversations can be hard, and as usual, there were great questions as well as productive disagreements. I would like to sincerely thank every participant for contributing their perspective and making this such a dynamic forum. I would also like to extend a huge thank you to our sponsors, without whom the forum would not be possible; the advisory committee, whose vision and expertise guided the development of each and every panel; and our collaborator, the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, for making this forum a success. And, of course, thank you to the COL staff whose tireless work every year turns the forum from an idea into an event.
For a full summary of the forum, as well as to read about recommendations the participants have for offshore wind development, keep an eye out for our forthcoming proceedings document.
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