US officials analyze effect of subsea power cables on marine life

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July 7, 2011

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–U.S. regulators say more research is needed to determine how power cables in the ocean will affect sharks, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine wildlife.

In a study released Thursday, the Interior Department said subsea power transmission cables generate electromagnetic fields that are detected by several marine organisms. It is unclear, however, whether those electromagnetic fields will disrupt important life functions among the species, such as prey detection or navigation, the study says.

Research is being conducted as the Interior Department to promote offshore wind-energy projects, which will require subsea cables to transmit electricity generated offshore to an onshore power grid.

In April, the Interior Department approved the first construction and operation plan for a U.S. offshore wind energy project, granting approval to Cape Wind Associates to construct more than 100 turbines in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts.

Given advances in the commercial development of offshore wind energy, “we must continue our effort to expand our knowledge and understanding of the potential effects on the marine environment,” Michael Bromwich, director of the Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said in a statement.

Despite the gaps, Thursday’s study says companies that construct and design power cables can take steps to reduce electromagnetic field emissions. Among them are measures to adopt certain designs and configurations.

-By Tennille Tracy, Dow Jones Newswires

Image courtesy NOAA

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