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East Coast offshore wind developers are facing a PR crisis: A wave of dead whales washing up on shore.

A "bubble curtain" encircles the installation vessel, reducing sound waves in the water, during the construction of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project.
A “bubble curtain” encircles the installation vessel, reducing sound waves in the water, during the construction of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project. Credit: Dominon Energy / Courtesy

So far this year, nearly two dozen whales have beached along the East Coast, and some protestors — including one group tied to an anti-offshore wind coalition — have blamed their deaths on expanding offshore wind development. The sounds of boats and underwater surveying have something to do with it, they claim.

But federal scientists say that’s not true, and that this spate of whale deaths isn’t even that unusual. Vessel strikes are one of the most common causes of death for whales, and experts say pandemic buying habits and a corresponding increase in worldwide shipping have made them more common. Warming waters have also disrupted whales’ feeding patterns and habitats — and those issues will only get worse as the climate changes. 

Offshore wind developers, meanwhile, have protocols in place to keep whales safe as they build, including Dominion Energy, which is constructing a 2.6 GW wind farm off the coast of Virginia Beach. Crew members on the project’s support vessels are trained to identify and avoid whales, and protected-species observers are also onboard to stop work if a marine mammal enters the area. Hydroacoustic monitoring — essentially placing giant microphones underwater to listen for marine mammal calls — also helps.

Read more about protecting whales during offshore wind construction at the Energy News Network.

More clean energy news

⏰ Can we still have a livable future? The United Nations climate panel released its “final warning” predicting climate change’s devastating effects unless the world quickly reduces greenhouse gas emissions to “secure a livable future for all.” (Guardian, Grist)

⚡ A big clean energy prediction: Clean energy, transmission and storage deployment trends, combined with federal incentives, suggest emissions-free power could make up as much as 90% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2030. (PV Magazine)

🏭 Accountability for ‘climate homicide’: A new academic paper makes the case that fossil fuel giants can be held criminally accountable for “climate homicide” — deaths related to pollution and climate change’s effects. (E&E News)

🚘 Stricter car emissions rules are coming: The U.S. EPA will reportedly grant California a waiver to enforce tailpipe emissions rules that are stricter than the federal government’s, paving the way for six other states to follow its lead. (Washington Post)

🏠 Solar hardly dents home prices: Homes close to utility-scale solar farms have on average a 1.5% lower property value than homes farther away, a new study finds, though some states had far larger price margins and others saw negligible differences. (Inside Climate News)

☀️ Weathering storms with solar: As the U.S. looks to build solar power in Puerto Rico, community leaders say funding must prioritize decentralized rooftop solar over utility-scale projects that rely on the island’s unreliable grid. (Energy News Network)

👀 Dive deeper: Energy News Network reporting fellow Angela Lugo-Thomas examines what lessons a community run entirely on a solar-powered microgrid in her native Puerto Rico can share for Detroit, which suffered days of power outages in recent winter weather. (Energy News Network/Planet Detroit)

🙅‍♂️ Not gonna happen: House Republicans roll out their energy and permitting legislative package, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer calls it a “nonstarter” on energy permitting reform. (E&E News, Politico)

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Kathryn brings her extensive editorial background to the Energy News Network team, where she oversees the early-morning production of ENN’s five email digest newsletters as well as distribution of ENN’s original journalism with other media outlets. From documenting chronic illness’ effect on college students to following the inner workings of Congress, Kathryn has built a broad experience in her more than five years working at major publications including The Week Magazine. Kathryn holds a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism and information management and technology from Syracuse University.