Science Café Explores Controversy: First Offshore Wind Farm in the USA Now a Possibility for North Carolina

The next GO-Science Coastal Science Café on July 8th at 6:00 p.m. will explore new findings and address public questions and concerns regarding offshore wind farm development in North Carolina. Free registration for the event is now open online at http://www.go-science.org/science-cafe/


Greenville, NC -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/03/2013 --Christine M. Voss, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences is leading the next discussion on off-shore wind energy in North Carolina, at the next Coastal Science Cafe on July 8th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Capt. Bill's Waterfront Restaurant located at 701 Evans St, Morehead City, NC 28557. Tickets are available for this free event at http://www.go-science.org/science-cafe/

Participants at the next Coastal Science Café will receive an update on the impact studies being performed along the coast as well as learn the latest regarding wind energy development offshore. In addition, participants will have the unique opportunity to have their questions answered and concerns addressed by experts in the field.

The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has approved three areas off the North Carolina coast for wind energy development. One area is located east of the Albemarle Sound in the northern part of the state. The other two are located near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Five companies have expressed interested in developing wind farms within these approved areas.

North Carolina has more wind off its shores than any other state on the Atlantic Coast. The coast is unique because the sea floor drops off slowly. This leaves large stretches of water that are quite shallow and ideal for wind farms. Just harnessing a fraction of the wind energy resources off of the North Carolina coast would meet more than 20 percent of the states total energy needs. Those interested in exploring the current wind patterns and strengths along the North Carolina coast can interact with a new infographic developed by HintFM at http://hint.fm/wind/

There are currently no installed offshore wind farms in the United States, so there are still many questions and concerns to be addressed. These include environmental impacts as well as potential impacts on coastal tourism.

Wind farms placed between 6 and 13 nautical miles from shore are barely visible on the horizon and are completely invisible during typically hazy summers. In addition, at the base of wind turbines there is a pile of large rocks called a scour apron. This pile of rocks is similar to what you would do to build a rocky habitat for fish, including the snapper-grouper complex that is critically important to commercial and recreational fishing.

Christine Voss has been engaged in all the renewable energy development and environmental sciences projects conducted by the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences team in interdisciplinary marine conservation ecology since 2009, when she began her postdoc. She has contributed significantly to UNC reports assessing the feasibility of offshore wind and marine hydrokinetic energy development along the NC continental shelf. She employs GIS in spatially explicit studies to determine how to avoid or minimize conflicts between wind farms and both wildlife and existing human uses of the Outer Continental Shelf.

Dr. Voss is also an ecosystems ecologist, using trophic modeling to develop an understanding of how food-web interactions and habitat alteration generate important direct and indirect effects in estuarine and marine ecosystems. She has published on indirect effects of barrier island food webs that imply predation risk on various threatened and endangered species. Dr. Voss continues her research on how sea level rise affects coastal marsh habitat, focusing on how the delivery of ecosystem services change as the geomorphology of estuarine shorelines is altered. She has also co-authored a book on the ecology and economics of compensatory habitat restoration.

Broadly, Dr. Voss is committed to producing scientific knowledge that will inform and enhance environmental and natural resource management. She recognizes that appreciation of ecological relationships can be used to protect natural and social capital by sustaining ecosystem services. For her, this includes understanding how coastal habitats benefit fish, wildlife, and people who live along the coast. More broadly, she realizes how harnessing our renewable energy resources, such as offshore wind energy, in an environmentally responsible way and ultimately weaning ourselves from fossil fuels, we can benefit in many ways.

GO-Science is a first-class learning experience for Eastern North Carolina that provides inspirational, motivational, and educational programs and activities for children, adults, and schools in order to help participants appreciate the role of science in our lives; believing that the knowledge of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEM) is a core understanding and capacity of an educated community.

About GO-Science
GO-Science, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established to bring informal science education programs to the public through hands-on learning, recently announced the development of a Science Center in Greenville. While the fundraising and renovation of the current site at 729 Dickinson Ave., in Greenville, NC proceeds the organization is offering extensive public and school outreach services in over 29 counties in Eastern North Carolina. The Coastal Science Café program is one of over 15 programs the center offers throughout the region. The format of the Coastal Science Café is designed to allow members of the general public to interact with scientists working to address some of today’s most important challenges.