Jeff Masters Weather Blog

‘Bubble curtains’ help protect whales from the noise of offshore wind construction » Yale Climate Connections

At some offshore wind farm construction sites, loud pile drivers are used to anchor turbine bases to the ocean floor.

But underwater noise and vibration can disturb whales and other marine mammals swimming nearby.

So Helen Rose Patterson of the National Wildlife Federation says it’s important to minimize that noise whenever possible.

One strategy is called a bubble curtain. A ship lays a tube on the ocean floor surrounding the construction site. Air is then pushed through holes in the tube to create a vertical wall of bubbles that traps the sound of construction.

“And [that] helps keep it from getting to the marine mammals and causing them harm,” says Patterson.

The technology is now being used at two offshore wind projects in the U.S.

And there are other ways to minimize noise — for example, by limiting construction when whales are in the area.

Patterson points out that offshore wind is just one source of underwater noise.

“Because we have global shipping, we have oil and gas exploration, we have military activities, there’s lots of things contributing to underwater noise,” she says.

But she says it’s important to ensure that offshore wind does not make the problem worse, so the industry can provide clean energy to people on land while causing as little disturbance as possible to animals in the ocean.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media

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