Potential environmental effects of deepwater floating offshore wind energy facilities
Over the last few decades, the offshore wind energy industry has expanded its scope from turbines mounted on foundations driven into the seafloor and standing in less than 60 m of water, to floating turbines moored in 120 m of water, to prospecting the development of floating turbines moored in ~1,000 m of water. Since there are few prototype turbines and mooring systems of these deepwater, floating offshore wind energy facilities (OWFs) currently deployed, their effects on the marine environment are speculative. Using the available scientific literature concerning appropriate analogs, including fixed-bottom OWFs, land-based wind energy facilities, wave and tidal energy devices, and oil and gas platforms, we conducted a qualitative systematic review to estimate the potential environmental effects of deepwater, floating OWFs during operation, as well as potential mitigation measures to address some of the effects. We evaluated six categories of potential effects: changes to atmospheric and oceanic dynamics due to energy removal and modifications, electromagnetic field effects on marine species from power cables, habitat alterations to benthic and pelagic fish and invertebrate communities, underwater noise effects on marine species, structural impediments to wildlife, and changes to water quality. Our synthesis of 89 articles selected for the review suggests that many of these potential effects could be mitigated to pose a low risk to the marine environment if developers adopt appropriate mitigation strategies and best-practice protocols. This review takes the necessary first steps in summarizing the available information on the potential environmental effects of deepwater, floating OWFs and can serve as a reference document for marine scientists and engineers, the energy industry, permitting agencies and regulators of the energy industry, project developers, and concerned stakeholders such as coastal residents, conservationists, and fisheries.