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Worker Health and Safety on Offshore Wind Farms - Special Report 310

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The United States holds a large amount of untapped wind energy, both land-based and offshore. The strongest and most consistent winds are either offshore or in rural areas, far from population centers that could benefit from the electricity produced. As of December 31, 2012, the United States had more than 60,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity—second only to China—all of it from land-based wind farms. Offshore wind development would supply energy to nearby population centers, especially on the East Coast. Yet the United States has no offshore turbines installed; many European nations have developed dozens of offshore wind farms over the past 15 years.

Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which authorized the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (USDOI) to regulate renewable energy sources on the outer continental shelf (OCS). Initially, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) had responsibility for essential regulations and for implementing this new authority, in addition to regulating oil and gas development. In April 2010, MMS was reorganized (see Chapter 3), and previously coexisting functions were separated: resource development and energy management are now administered by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and health, safety, and environmental enforcement for offshore oil and gas is now administered by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). The regulation of renewable energy is an exception to this organizational structure. USDOI issued its final regulations in 30 CFR 585, which gave BOEM authority to regulate all renewable energy development activities on the OCS. The agency still needed to provide guidance in many areas of offshore wind development, including ensuring the health and safety of offshore wind workers.

In August 2011, USDOI requested that the Marine Board of the National Research Council assess its approach for regulating the health and safety of wind farm workers on the OCS. Worker Health and Safety on Offshore Wind Farms reviews the following statements of task:

- Identify unique risks to worker health and safety on wind farms, as compared with oil and gas operations on the OCS;

- Identify any gaps or overlaps in jurisdictional authority; and

- Evaluate the adequacy of existing regulations and recommend enhancements to regulations for worker health and safety on OCS wind farms.


Suggested Citation

Transportation Research Board. 2013. Worker Health and Safety on Offshore Wind Farms - Special Report 310. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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107 pages |8.5 x 11

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