Offshore Wind

Offshore wind, a renewable energy source, generates electricity using wind turbines that harness the force of winds at sea.  Europe has been using offshore wind power since the early 1990s and similar projects are steadily being developed in the US.  Present Biden issued an Executive Order calling to greatly expand the infrastructure surrounding clean energy, particularly offshore wind projects, and has set a goal of deploying “30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind in the United States by 2030.”  The achievement of this renewable energy goal would cut 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – which is equivalent to taking 17 million cars off the roads every year – and provide power for more than 10 million US homes.


Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF)

News + Events
Offshore Wind Project Gains Approval in the US, June 3, 2021

Wind Development on the Horizon, April 8, 2021

Example Publications:

Long, CM; Valberg, PA. 2019. “Low-frequency magnetic fields: Potential environmental health impacts.” In Encyclopedia of Environmental Health, 2nd Edition, Vol. 4. (Ed.: Nriagu, JO), Elsevier, Burlington.

Long, C; Chien, J. 2021 (Fall). “Electric and magnetic field (EMF) considerations for offshore wind projects.” Gradient Trends – Risk Science & Application.

Offshore wind projects are typically large and multifaceted, involving intricate permitting processes, multiple stakeholders, and rigorous evaluations of potential human health and ecological impacts.  These projects require an interdisciplinary knowledge of coastal and marine issues and extensive technical expertise, from site assessment, planning and design, construction and installation of both offshore and onshore components, and transmission, as bringing wind energy onshore has unique transportation and storage challenges.  Permits may be required at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels, and stakeholders may include the fishing industry, environmental groups, and coastal communities, calling for extensive and reliable risk communication.  Ecological assessments evaluate potential impacts during installation and operation to migratory and coastal birds and marine life, including threatened and endangered species.  Human health assessments often include evaluating the impacts of electric and magnetic field (EMF) exposure – invisible lines of force associated with anything that generates, transmits, or uses electricity.  Bringing wind power onshore can involve buried high-voltage transmission cables, overhead transmission lines, and electrical substations.

Gradient has significant project experience in several technical areas associated with offshore wind development projects.  Our scientists are recognized experts in the fields of human health risk assessment, exposure assessment, marine ecological risk assessment, spatial data analysis, sediment transport, and risk communication.  For example, we have more than 20 years of experience evaluating EMF exposure and health risks as a part of permitting for complex transmission line projects in states along the East Coast.  Specifically, Gradient conducted the EMF assessment for the Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the US.  Gradient modeled potential EMF impacts on human health and marine organisms from submarine export cables and onshore transmission components, and helped to mitigate those impacts by identifying project design components, such as sea-floor burial and cable depth.  The Vineyard Wind project sent the first clean wind power to the regional grid at the end of 2023 and will be fully operational by 2024, generating clean electricity for approximately 400,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts. 

What We Do:

  • EMF exposure modeling, measurement, and mitigation for offshore wind development projects, transmission lines, and substations
  • Air dispersion modeling, including industry-standard models such as CALPUFF
  • Ecological risk assessment related to potential habitat changes, EMF exposure, and mortality of migratory birds and marine life
  • Risk assessment of potential impacts to human health from exposure to EMFs
  • Sediment management related to wind turbine foundations and moorings, underground duct banks, and buried cables
  • Risk communication to a variety of stakeholders via public meetings and presentations to regulatory boards, and provide testimony at regulatory hearings

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