It’s Not Just an Offshore Wind Farm: Combining Multiple Uses and Multiple Values on the Outer Continental Shelf


Marine aquaculture and marine-based alternative energy, especially offshore wind, are increasingly competing for space on the Outer Continental Shelf and the water column above it with each other and with more traditional ocean uses. The laws governing this increasingly crowded space need to become better aware of changing uses of and values for the ocean and to promote rational planning of how this space is used in the future.

In one approach, various regions of the U.S. coast are actively engaged in comprehensive marine spatial planning. Marine spatial planning is a process designed to prioritize, balance, and rationally allocate the wide variety of values that a number of interested communities place on the ocean. It is, to be sure, a complex endeavor, but it currently offers the best process available for identifying, negotiating, and ameliorating value and use conflicts in the ocean.

However, technology is continuously offering other options. Planned "multiple use" is a familiar concept for terrestrial public lands, but it has a less robust history in the marine realm. New technologies allow the potential for some of the more creative designs in offshore renewable energy, especially offshore wind, to alleviate several possible conflicts. Specifically, these technologies allow for multiple uses (energy production, aquaculture, potentially recreation and living space) in the same physical space, freeing up other areas of the ocean for environmental and cultural protection. Permitting laws and regulations should evolve to recognize and promote these multiple-use marine technologies, streamlining the multijurisdictional bureaucracy that exists to govern offshore structures.

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