On Tuesday, Nov. 14, stakeholders in Connecticut’s first-ever wind farm project gathered at UConn’s Avery Point campus to announce a collaborative, multi-year fisheries program to study the relationship between offshore wind farms and marine life.
UConn will lead the study and a variety of related programs funded through a $1.25 million grant from developers Orsted and Eversource. The groundbreaking clean energy project is expected to generate enough electricity to power 350,000 homes in Connecticut and Rhode Island, starting in 2025.
Campus dean and Chief Administrative Officer Annemarie Seifert called the project and partnership a “potential game-changer” for Connecticut. She noted that in addition to funding cutting-edge research, the grant will support opportunities for students, and related educational programs that include a community lecture series. Speaking on behalf of Pamir Alpay, UConn’s Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, Seifert underscored UConn’s commitment to combatting the devastating effects of climate change and securing a sustainable future powered by clean energy.
“It is critical that we balance our research and advancement into new wind energy with our commitment to stewardship of the environment,” she said, quoting a statement by Alpay. “UConn researchers, including our superb students, have a unique opportunity to help advance sustainable and renewable technologies and study the potential impact directly from Connecticut’s shoreline.”
The 704-megawatt project known as Revolution Wind will be located 32 miles southeast of Connecticut, 15 miles south of Rhode Island, and 12 miles southwest of Martha’s Vineyard. The wind farm will have a total of 65 turbines that will be assembled and shipped from the State Pier in New London. Construction is expected to be completed in 2024, with commercial operation set to begin in 2025.
UConn is working with Orsted to identify the specific focus of the research, which will involve the trophic dynamics of fish habitat, particularly the interaction between the wind farm and marine life, said Evan Ward, professor and head of UConn’s Avery Point-based Marine Sciences Department.
UConn is Connecticut’s flagship oceanographic institute and the Avery Point campus is home to multiple marine-related programs and the school’s 90-foot research vessel R/V Connecticut. While marine science is a critical component of the study, researchers from the Department of Geography and other social science programs will also be involved, probing topics such as the social and economic impact of the project and workforce development.
UConn has a long history of involvement with clean energy and, in recent years, has made it a priority and strategic focus. Faculty, students, staff, and alumni are engaged in a broad range of clean energy research and initiatives, much of it through specialized centers and institutes that include the Center for Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2), Eversource Energy Center, Future Climate Venture Studio, and Innovation Partnership Building.
The partnership with UConn Avery Point builds on Orsted and Eversource’s multi-year research partnership with Mystic Aquarium. Announced in 2022, it is one of the nation’s first comprehensive studies of the potential effects of offshore wind turbines on marine mammals and sea turtles.
“We could not be prouder to invest in this essential work that will help support some of the region’s best scientists at UConn Avery Point to further our understanding of marine ecosystems and their interrelation to off shore wind,” said Michael Ausere, Vice President of Business Development for Eversource. “As our marine populations continue to be devastated by the catastrophic consequences of climate change, we must double down on work with local communities and research institutions to refine the best practices to accelerate the transition to a new clean energy future sustainably.”
Orsted is a Denmark-based multinational clean energy company that develops, constructs and operates offshore and land-based wind farms, solar farms, energy storage facilities and bioenergy plants. The announcement of the grant caps years of work on the Revolution Wind project that began in 2017 and involved a robust environmental review and stakeholder engagement process, including under the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, prior to approval by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
“UConn is one of the top public institutions in the country,” said Nicole Verdi, Orsted’s Head of Government Affairs and Policy, New England. “This partnership with UConn Avery Point is a critical research program that will provide valuable data to better inform the industry’s clean energy development efforts while protecting marine environments for the future”.
Hank Webster, Deputy Commissioner of Energy, for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said it was exciting to see the clean energy industry getting off the ground in Connecticut and to have the right partners in place to do it well.
“It’s critically important that we do offshore wind right,” he said. “We see offshore wind as a resource for the economy of Connecticut and we are working hard as a department to advance it”.
“This study will ensure that this project is done in the most thoughtful and environmentally friendly way,” added State Senator Norm Needleman, whose district includes shoreline towns on Long Island Sound. “We are building a new industry in this area but also along the Eastern seaboard as we work to decarbonize our grid.”