Developing Environmental Protocols and Modeling Tools to Support Ocean Renewable Energy and Stewardship

September 21, 2010 - September 30, 2012
BOEMRE Contract: M10PC00097

Offshore wind energy and other forms of offshore renewable energy are proliferating overseas and are soon to be a reality in the United States, yet little is understood about the environmental effects of wind energy and other renewable facilities in the marine environment. While some monitoring has taken place in Europe, a comprehensive monitoring protocol for the effects of offshore renewable energy has yet to be developed for the United States.

A new National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) project is enabling a team of URI researchers to develop data collection processes and standards which would be used along with existing and newly developed tools to evaluate the impacts of potential projects on the ocean environment. The project is contributing to Rhode Island's effort to develop and evolve a nationally useful and comprehensive coastal and marine spatial planning model. Ultimately, this will provide agencies with a comprehensive, yet flexible means of assessing the impacts of a broad range of offshore renewable energy resources projects on marine ecosystems and human activities.

The project is funded through a $745,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, (BOEM) in a collaborative effort with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This work builds upon the recently approved Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP), a cutting-edge management and regulatory plan for the state's ocean uses and resources, including offshore renewable energy resources, which is serving as a national marine spatial planning model effort which provides a balanced approach to the development and protection of Rhode Island's ocean-based resources.

URI, through its Graduate School of Oceanography, Department of Ocean Engineering, Coastal Resources Center, Rhode Island Sea Grant, and the College of Environmental and Life Sciences, is leading the project which reflects a national priority calling for ocean renewable energy to help answer the country's energy needs while addressing climate change impacts. The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council and Rhode Island-based Applied Science Associates, Inc. serve as major partners for this effort. NOPP is a collaboration of federal agencies to provide leadership and coordination of national oceanographic research and education initiatives.

The final deliverables produced from this project identified the types of environmental effects that should be monitored for, techniques for how to monitor those effects, as well as a framework to help regulators design a monitoring program that was project specific. In addition, two tools were developed to assist in analyzing cumulative impacts of offshore renewable energy development, as well as identifying offshore culture resources during the siting process. The final report from this 2-year effort was made available online at:

A scientific journal article describing the findings of this project can also be found here: