Potential impacts of floating wind turbine technology for marine species and habitats

Sara M. Maxwell, Francine Kershaw, Cameron C. Locke, Melinda G. Conners, Cyndi Dawson, Sandy Aylesworth, Rebecca Loomis, Andrew F. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
291 Downloads (Pure)


Offshore wind energy is expanding globally and new floating wind turbine technology now allows wind energy developments in areas previously too deep for fixed-platform turbines. Floating offshore wind has the potential to greatly expand our renewable energy portfolio, but with rapid expansion planned globally, concerns exist regarding impacts to marine species and habitats. Floating turbines currently exist in three countries but large-scale and rapid expansion is planned in over a dozen. This technology comes with unique potential ecological impacts. Here, we outline the various floating wind turbine configurations, and consider the potential impacts on marine mammals, seabirds, fishes and benthic ecosystems. We focus on the unique risks floating turbines may pose with respect to: primary and secondary entanglement of marine life in debris ensnared on mooring lines used to stabilize floating turbines or dynamic inter-array cables; behavioral modification and displacement, such as seabird attraction to perching opportunities; turbine and vessel collision; and benthic habitat degradation from turbine infrastructure, for example from scour from anchors and inter-array cables. We highlight mitigation techniques that can be applied by managers or mandated through policy, such as entanglement deterrents or the use of cable and mooring line monitoring technologies to monitor for and reduce entanglement potential, or smart siting to reduce impacts to critical habitats. We recommend turbine configurations that are likely to have the lower ecological impacts, particularly taut or semi-taut mooring configurations, and we recommend studies and technologies still needed that will allow for floating turbines to be applied with limited ecological impacts, for example entanglement monitoring and deterrent technologies. Our review underscores additional research and mitigation techniques are required for floating technology, beyond those needed for pile-driven offshore or inshore turbines, and that understanding and mitigating the unique impacts from this technology is critical to sustainability of marine ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114577
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Early online date25 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • Floating offshore wind technology
  • Habitat displacement
  • Renewable energy
  • Secondary entanglement
  • Turbine collision
  • Turbine configuration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Environmental Engineering


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