Audubon Guidelines for Responsible Offshore Wind Energy in North Carolina

Our state has huge offshore wind energy potential. We want to make sure the industry grows in ways that protect birds and fight climate change.

Climate change is the biggest threat to birds and people alike. The cost to birds if we do not invest in clean energy is unthinkable, as climate change stands to take a far greater toll than any threat posed by clean energy infrastructure itself, particularly when these projects are sited, designed and monitored in ways to reduce harm to birds and wildlife. 

Our state has more offshore wind energy potential than any on the Atlantic seaboard, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. We want to make sure the industry grows the right way. By growing our clean energy economy responsibly, we can draw down carbon emissions and ensure a brighter future for birds and people. 

Key guidelines for responsible offshore wind energy include: 

  • Proper Siting: Informed by best available science and data, projects should be sited in areas that have the fewest potential impacts on birds and other wildlife. That means avoiding migratory pathways, high-quality habitat, and other areas of high bird abundance. 

  • Robust MonitoringData collection and monitoring are critical at all stages of offshore wind development. Beforehand, bird data can tell us where a project should be built. Once a project is operating, ongoing monitoring helps inform mitigation measures that should be taken to conserve bird populations.

  • Shared Data: Data collected at individual projects should be shared with the broader scientific community, regulators, and the public, allowing us to better understand the cumulative, population-level impacts of offshore wind energy and inform future project design, operation, and mitigation. 

  • Best Available TechnologyIncorporating new technologies into offshore wind project design is important to help us document and minimize impacts to birds. Some of these technologies are available for land-based wind sites and should be refined for and incorporated into offshore wind projects as soon as possible. Some solutions being researched include technologies that slow or stop turbine operation temporarily when birds are nearby.

  • Strong EnforcementStrong environmental review processes and federal wildlife laws, such as the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act, are already in place. It’s critical that we continue to strengthen these protections for birds. State and federal agencies can enforce these laws through appropriate monitoring of impacts before, during, and after construction and during operation in order to achieve full compliance with existing laws. 

  • Technical Guidance: Other states with fast-growing offshore wind industries have established technical wind working groups, bringing together experts from conservation groups and academic, industry, and agency partners to share best available scientific information and provide guidance on siting, monitoring, mitigation, and use of emerging technology. North Carolina should do the same. 

How you can help, right now