Sea Grant, DOE, NOAA Fisheries fund six projects for the coexistence of offshore energy with Northeast fishing and coastal communities
MAY 19, 2022 — FUNDED PROJECT ABSTRACTS
The Northeast Sea Grant Consortium—in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office and Water Power Technologies Office, and NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center—today announced six projects to advance social science and technology research on offshore renewable energy in the Northeast United States.
Building capacity for participatory approaches to community resilience and ocean renewable energy siting
(Project Lead: Heather Leslie, University of Maine)
To successfully site ORE in the US Northeast, we need to know how values and beliefs influence people’s responses to ORE development and how those values and beliefs differ by place. Yet limited baseline social data exists to support states, developers, and communities to understand where ORE technology is a good fit for people and place. Therefore, we propose to identify and characterize the values and beliefs that influence social acceptance of ORE.
Our goal is to promote place-specific ORE development in Downeast Maine, and to develop and pilot engagement methods and practices that support robust public participation in ocean renewable energy (ORE) decision making. To this end, the specific project objectives are: 1. to identify and characterize values and beliefs that influence social acceptance of ORE; 2. to determine ‘place-technology fit’ for three communities in Downeast Maine; and 3. to develop a Community ORE Toolkit that can be used in communities throughout the northeastern US and beyond to identify, assess, and measure place-technology fit in the context of community climate resilience.
Since process is critical to the renewable energy transition, we focus on participatory methods to disseminate information. We will engage with three focal communities in Downeast Maine using interviews and focus groups to coproduce surveys, geospatial maps, and a toolkit. These products, along with community-driven participatory processes, will measure social acceptance of ORE and determine ‘place-technology’ fit for the three communities. Indicators of acceptance will include place attachment, place and social identities, demographics, and energy system beliefs. The toolkit can be replicated in other places to collect additional data and support engaged and transparent public participation.
Can Proprietary Commercial Lobstering Data be Used to Inform Offshore Wind Development?
(Project Lead: Kate Beard-Tisdale, University of Maine)
No comprehensive, fine-scale temporal-spatial coverage of the lobster fishery currently exists that supports navigating a marine environment that is rapidly changing with respect to human use and ocean climate. This project aims to fill the gap by developing a standardized procedure for constructing accurate spatial and temporal representations of the Maine lobster fishery using the data and knowledge of individual fishermen.
This project is a scoping study with the following objectives: 1) develop and test a proof of concept that high quality, fine-scale aggregate spatial temporal representations of the Maine lobster fishery can be generated from individual fisherman’s Personal Computer (PC)-based navigation and plotter data; 2) assure that the proof of concept addresses the proprietary nature of the individual fisherman’s data contributions; and 3) develop product specifications and initial sample products that will meet the needs of fisheries management and marine spatial planning.
The proof of concept will be developed through direct collaboration with lobstermen in partnership with the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) and Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), UMaine’s Lobster Institute, and under the governance and under the governance structures of the Fisheries Knowledge Trust (FKT). We will assess different PC chart plotter/navigation system formats, collect data from a set of volunteer lobstermen, collaboratively develop data product models, anonymize individual fisherman’s data, and develop and evaluate data aggregations at different levels of spatial and temporal granularity.
Community Engagement and Stakeholder Perceptions of Floating Offshore Wind
(Project Lead: Alison Bates, Colby College)
Coastal and communities are increasingly faced with calls for offshore wind that may impact livelihoods or cultural well-being. Impacts to various ocean users and marine-dependent communities – both in tangible ways, such as lost revenue or increasing space-use conflict, or in non-quantifiable ways, such as changing the seascape or cultural practices, are critically important considerations to the planning and development processes if offshore wind is to contribute to climate mitigation in a just and equitable way. This holistic assessment improves authentic and equitable consultation and outreach, and presents recommendations for equitable solutions.
The objectives of this research are to develop a stakeholder database and outreach strategy, evaluate perceptions of floating offshore wind among onshore and offshore local communities, implement innovative and scientifically rigorous tools using mental models to identify adaptive capacity of various communities to offshore wind, and develop recommendations for eventual coexistence of floating wind and various ocean use activities.
We will conduct a media analysis and asset mapping workshop to identify stakeholders and generate a set of scenarios. We will generate visualizations of offshore wind scenarios and couple those with semi-structured interview protocol. We will then conduct interviews with 30-40 key stakeholders to develop the major themes, concerns and attitudes towards floating offshore wind. From the interview results, we will develop a standardized survey tool that includes the major themes and conduct in-depth structured interviews using fuzzy logic concept mapping, to identify the ability and necessary conditions for stakeholders to adapt to offshore wind including capacity for coexistence.
Regional Community Attitudes Regarding Procedural and Distributive Justice Dimensions of Southern New England Offshore Wind Development
(Project Lead: David Bidwell, University of Rhode Island)
Despite growing political support for and investment in offshore wind in the United States, concerns persist, including those related to fairness, transparency, and the participation of local settler and Tribal communities. While decision-makers frequently focus on technological barriers, scholars argue that the barriers to U.S. offshore wind development are grounded in social, cultural, and to a lesser extent, economic considerations. If states in the Northeast Sea Grant region are to realize their ambitious renewable energy goals, barriers related to fairness and equity must be identified and addressed to ensure community well-being and a just energy transition.
The objectives of this mixed-methods study of fairness and justice in Southern New England communities regarding offshore wind energy development are: 1) To identify community concerns and research questions regarding procedural, distributive, and recognitional justice dimensions of southern New England offshore wind projects; 2) To quantitatively assess community attitudes regarding the procedural, distributive, and recognitional justice dimensions of southern New England offshore wind projects, and 3) To examine differences in attitudes within and among settler and Indigenous communities.
We propose a mixed-methods baseline assessment, comprising interviews and a survey, of five settler communities in the southern New England region as well as seven Tribal Nations located near these communities. Communities and Tribal Nations are selected to focus on active offshore wind development projects (both power generation and transmission). A comparative, cross-case analysis will identify key variables affecting perceptions of procedural, distributive, and recognitional justice within and across these communities.
Evaluating Messaging, Communication Networks and Public Engagement on Offshore Wind Development in Southern New England
(Project Lead: Emily Diamond, University of Rhode Island)
As an increasing number of offshore wind energy projects are being proposed in the Northeast region and across the country, developers, regulators and stakeholders need to understand how best to engage coastal communities and key stakeholders in the decision-making process. This project will provide valuable information on how such projects are being communicated, what the role and influence of the key messengers are, and what messaging and engagement strategies are most effective.
The purpose of this project is to investigate the communication and engagement strategies used to share information about proposed offshore wind development projects with impacted communities. The objectives are: (1) to identify the messaging frames, sources and approaches used to communicate about offshore wind development to impacted coastal communities; (2) to characterize messengers themselves through an analysis of communication networks; (3) to analyze public engagement strategies used to inform communities and incorporate community perspectives into offshore wind development; and (4) to develop and share messaging recommendations for how to effectively and equitably engage key stakeholders from coastal communities in the development of offshore wind energy.
Methodology for this project is: (1) Content analysis of public-facing messaging to identify framing techniques used by different messengers throughout the course of a project’s development; (2) qualitative interviews to examine the influence of messengers and messages and analyze the types and nature of public engagement/participation. A network analysis questionnaire will also be completed during these interviews to create a social network analysis dataset to depict ties between actors; and (3) quantitative survey of individuals who have been engaged in the planning and communication process for the proposed projects to investigate levels of trust in sources, issues of concern, and public participation goals and behavior.
Achieving Community Resilience by Optimizing Symbiotic Offshore Renewable Energy and Food Systems
(Project Lead: Maha Haji, Cornell University)
Though current mapping tools exist for the region (for instance the National Ocean Data Portal), they are designed for short-term planning (i.e., does this proposed offshore wind lease intersect with any commercial fishing grounds?). None currently incorporate ocean data sets that will be key to making future decisions (i.e., if this wind farm is placed here, is it possible to later incorporate a wave-powered aquaculture farm in this location as well?). The tool developed in this proposed effort would empower stakeholders to make more informed decisions that could substantially increase economic efficiencies in the long term, thereby increasing economic resiliency.
To develop a mapping tool that can be used in the marine spatial planning process in the Northeast United States to highlight potential conflicts as well as synergies that may exist between offshore wind farm developers, commercial and recreational fishers, aquaculture farmers, and wave energy developers. Allowing for the integration of multiple ocean uses in the same area will enable symbiosis between renewable energy and food systems, and the economic efficiencies that come with this symbiosis would contribute to community resilience, growth, and stability.
The mapping tool will be built by first developing a simulation model of potential wave-powered aquaculture farm designs for the case of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture as well as finfish farming. This simulation model will then be used in conjunction with a geographical information system (GIS)-based model that synthesizes available datasets of information relevant to offshore wind farm developers, wave energy developers, commercial and recreational fishers, as well as aquaculture farmers. Finally, basic Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis will be incorporated in the tool to enable users to explore and find suitable offshore areas of the Northeast for development.
The Northeast Sea Grant Consortium consists of the Connecticut, Maine, MIT, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Woods Hole Sea Grant Programs. Sea Grant’s mission is to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment.
DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office and Water Power Technologies Office are committed to developing and deploying innovative technologies for clean, domestic power generation from natural renewable resources such as wind, hydropower, waves, and tides. The mission is to enable energy science research, development, and testing of new technologies to advance innovative energy systems in the U.S.
NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center works with the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office to ensure informed management decisions based on sound science, promoting sustainability of marine life, supporting fisheries and coastal communities, and generating economic opportunities and benefits from the use of these resources.