- Marine conservation organizations have raked in donations from companies behind offshore wind energy projects, including the developer of one project potentially linked to a surge in whale deaths along the eastern seaboard, according to a Save Right Whales coalition report.
- Grants and contracts from Orsted and Avangrid, two major offshore wind developers in the U.S., as well as British-based oil company Shell, funded research, class curriculum, aquarium exhibits and state fisheries at marine conservation nonprofits.
- “Even if these big wind companies are only sending small amounts of money to these non-profits, what they’re doing is buying goodwill,” Lisa Linowes, executive director of Wind Action, part of the Save Right Whales Coalition, told the DCNF.
Marine conservation organizations have raked in donations from companies behind offshore wind energy projects, including the developer of one project potentially linked to a surge in whale deaths along the eastern seaboard, according to a recent report.
Orsted, Avangrid and British oil company Shell, backers of some of the biggest offshore wind projects in the U.S., sent funds to marine conservation nonprofits, according to a list by marine life coalition Save Right Whales. Each nonprofit has supported and promoted offshore winds, even after evidence emerged that potentially linked wind farms and other green ventures from one company to a recent increase in whale deaths.
“Impacts on whales are becoming very evident. From Maine down to N.C., environmental groups are not engaging the way they normally would about something like cell towers,” Lisa Linowes, executive director of Wind Action, which is part of the Save Right Whales coalition, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Even if big wind companies are only sending small amounts of money to these non-profits, what they’re doing is buying goodwill.”
Danish-based renewable energy company Orsted is the largest operator of offshore wind projects in the U.S., according to their website. They partnered with Eversource, New England’s largest energy delivery company, offering electric, water and gas service on multiple American projects, including Revolution Wind, according to their website.
The Revolution Wind project in Connecticut and Rhode Island is aimed at helping both states reach 100% renewable energy and conserve energy for the entire New England region, according to its website. It is expected to be fully operational by 2025.
Through Revolution Wind, both companies sent funding to nonprofit ocean and marine life research and education institutes, like a $500,000 grant to the Woods Hole Institution (WHOI) in 2018 that funded research and a $950,000 grantto Project Oceanology in 2021, to be distributed over four years, which funded K-12 education programs and curriculumthat promote offshore wind.
“WHOI was awarded a contract for research, not a donation, from Orsted to demonstrate, evaluate and improve on methods to detect North Atlantic right whales from acoustic buoys, a field in which WHOI scientists and engineers have unique expertise,” a spokesperson for WHOI told the DCNF.
“Orsted has no control over the research process, the conclusions reached during the course of the research, nor the dissemination or communication of research results. WHOI’s research does not constitute endorsement of any company or industry,” they added.
Orsted gave the most funding, a 1.25 million dollar grant to the Connecticut-based Mystic Aquarium in 2021.
Mystic Aquarium is a nonprofit aquarium with the mission to inspire people to protect and care for the ocean and planet through research, education and conservation, according to its website. The aquarium referred to offshore wind as “One of the most promising sources of renewable energy.”
The grant funded educational internship programs with the aquarium and also directly funded the organization by sponsoring the aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program, which rescues and rehabilitates stranded marine animals.
Part of this grant was also allocated to build the “Wind, Water, Wave” exhibit, which used infographic displays and interactive equipment to showcase the potential of ocean wind energy and its impact on a “clean energy future,” according to Globalrenewablenews.com. The exhibit highlighted the “achievements” and “impact” of the Revolution Wind project on building this envisioned “clean energy future.”
“Joint development partners Eversource and Orsted regularly partner with educational institutions and environmental organizations as we develop our offshore wind projects. We do so to ensure that the industry continues to advance in a way that successfully coexists with marine life while curbing the effects of climate change that are changing ocean environments and threatening marine habitats,” a spokesperson from Orsted told the DCNF.
“The funding provided to organizations is for independent research activities and the creation of educational exhibits and programming – not promotion. Our intent with these research partnerships is to better inform the industry’s clean energy development efforts while protecting marine environments for the future,” the spokesperson added.
Oregon-based Avangrid Renewables is a renewable energy company that is the third-largest American wind generator, according to its website. They operate major offshore wind projects on the east coast.
One of these projects is Vineyard Wind in Massachusetts, which has a goal of generating clean, affordable and renewable energy across the state, according to its website. Avangrid has a 50-50 share on this project with Danish fund management company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), a fund management company that specializes in investing in energy infrastructure assets.
Through Vineyard Wind, Avangrid provided Massachusetts marine mammal research nonprofit the Center for Coastal Studies with undisclosed amounts of funds. In its 2018 financial report, they are listed as a corporate donor, as a corporate sponsor for 2021 in the 2020 report and as a business donor in the 2021 report, according to company financial reports.
Avangrid would give the highest amount of funds to the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM). ELM is a nonprofit environmental policy advocacy group whose primary goal is to catalyze the clean energy transition, according to its website.
“We must develop massive amounts of clean energy infrastructure, from offshore wind and solar to energy storage and transmission,” part of the “Catalyzing the Clean Energy Transition” section of their website says.
In 2020, they were given between $5,000-$9,000 in donations from Vineyard Wind, in addition to an undisclosed amount of funds that same year. Vineyard Wind is also listed as a premier sponsor for the company’s 2020 Commonwealth Environmental Leadership Awards.
Shell is a major oil company that has 50% ownership of two American offshore wind projects, according to its website. In 2020, they provided a $201,207 grant to the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and a $296,816 grant to the ocean advocacy think tank Blue Planet Strategies through a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).
The NFWF is dedicated to restoring, enhancing and sustaining the country’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats, according to their website.
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is a state agency that manages the state’s recreational and commercial saltwater fisheries and oversees other services for the support of fishing communities and the marine environment, according to its website. The grant was used to develop a framework for ropeless fishing in New England.
The Division of Maine Fisheries has expressed support for the national goal of reaching 30 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030 on its website.
NGOs who long supported protections for the right whale now take money from the offshore wind developers. Download our report on conflicts of interest- https://t.co/h01GGnxcoC @WECProtect @SaveNARW @windaction @pwrhungry
— Lisa Linowes (@LinowesLisa) December 8, 2022
The Biden administration has pushed for offshore wind projects for its green energy goals. Just weeks ago, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced more funding for these projects.
Since December 2022, more than 20 whales have washed up along east coast shores near future offshore wind project survey sites, including four operated by Orsted at an unusual mortality rate, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). New Jersey environmental groups such as Save Long Beach Island (Save LBI) and Protect Our Coast NJ have repeatedly asked the Biden administration to halt offshore wind projects until an investigation on the projects can be completed.
A January Save LBI report revealed a potential link between the noise from wind turbines and whales’ hearing impairment, which may lead to their deaths.
The group filed a lawsuit on behalf of New Jersey and New York residents against the Department of the Interior last year, arguing that the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) did not take the time to thoroughly consider the impact of the project sites on the environment, according to Reuters. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last week, ruling that BOEM did not need to provide an analysis before selecting project sites.
Eversource, Project Oceanology, Mystic Aquarium, Avangrid Renewables, the Center for Coastal Studies, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, Shell, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and Blue Planet Strategies did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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