GREEN

Whales Protected From Wind Farm With Bubble Curtain

08/11/2011 04:10 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2011

Anti-wind power groups have made a lot of noise over wind turbines, but that hasn't stopped Germany from investing in more offshore wind power. According to the Guardian, the government is now looking into soundproofing underwater construction sites to protect whales and porpoises in the Baltic sea.

Whales and porpoises rely on sound to navigate and hunt. This underwater bubble curtain could protect them from the noise generated by implanting the framework of offshore wind farms, and could prevent hearing loss.

Karsten Brensing, a biologist at the Whales and Dolphins Conservation Society told the Guardian: "These animals are so dependent on their acoustic sense … we need an acoustically clean environment."

The "bubble curtain" was proposed by Germany's Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and, as Spiegel Online describes it, a pipe or hose in placed on the sea floor with the intention to circle noise pollutants. Next, air is pushed through holes serving as a shield of bubbles around the noise. As sound waves pass through the bubble curtain, their intensity is absorbed, making less noise.

Greenpeace agrees the bubble curtain is certainly a step in the right direction, but believes it's no long term solution.

"A bubble curtain is one way to minimize noise and potentially reduce the impact of offshore wind farm construction on sealife," Greenpeace oceans & biodiversity campaigner Thilo Maack told Spiegel Online. But Maack added, "it's important to distinguish between initiatives that simply reduce noise and alternative methods of installing wind farm foundations."

Discussions are heated in the U.S. over an offshore windfarm in Massachusetts.

"Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects," a study commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association, found that some people may be "annoyed" by the sound of wind turbines, but scientists dismissed the notion that they are harmful to human health, and admitted only a minority would be psychologically affected with sleeplessness and stress caused by the sound.

Germany is one of the world's biggest investors in wind power. Since choosing to phase out nuclear power, Bloomberg reports the country plans to install 10,000 megawatts of sea-based turbines by 2020, up from about 210 megawatts now.

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