The five New England offshore wind leaseholders — Equinor, Mayflower Wind, Ørsted/Eversource and Vineyard Wind — announced a uniform turbine layout proposal submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard with 1 nautical mile (nm) spacing between wind turbines.
The companies issued the following joint statement:
“In response to feedback from key stakeholders, we have proposed to adopt a uniform turbine layout across our adjacent New England lease areas. This uniform layout has subsequently been proposed to the United States Coast Guard (USCG) for its review.
This uniform layout is consistent with the requests of the region’s fisheries industry and other maritime users. The proposed layout specifies that turbines will be spaced 1 nautical mile (nm) apart, arranged in east-west rows and north-south columns, with the rows and columns continuous across all New England lease areas. In addition, independent expert analysis provided to the USCG confirmed that this uniform layout would provide for robust navigational safety and search and rescue capability by providing hundreds of transit corridors to accommodate the region’s vessel traffic.
We look forward to continuing to work with the USCG, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, coastal states, the fisheries industry, and other stakeholders involved to ensure continued coexistence of every ocean user in the region, including offshore wind.”
A uniform layout reflects considerable written and oral public comments from New England maritime stakeholders and will allow mariners to safely transit from one end of the New England Wind Energy Area (NE WEA) to the other without unexpected obstacles.
The five New England offshore wind leaseholders’ proposal to the USCG addresses four principal concerns: (1) navigation safety; (2) the fisheries community’s request for uniform and consistent spacing between turbines throughout the NE WEA; (3) creation of distinct transit corridors; and (4) the facilitation of search and rescue operations conducted by both vessel and aircraft.
The New England offshore wind leaseholders also submitted a report prepared by W.F. Baird & Associates Ltd. to the United States Coast Guard that analyzes the uniform layout using international vessel safety guidelines. W.F. Baird & Associates Ltd. is a leading vessel and port safety consultant and their analysis was based on automatic identification system (AIS) data between 2017 and 2018.
The key findings in their report include:
Most traffic in the general region is transiting around, or along the outside edges, of the NE WEA;
Most of the transiting vessels are fishing vessels, and they follow a wide range of transit paths through the NE WEA as they are coming from several different ports and heading to a variety of fishing grounds;
Vessels up to 400-ft in length can safely operate within the proposed 1×1 nm layout, and historic transit data shows vessels over this length tend to follow existing Traffic Separation Schemes already outside the NE WEA;
The uniform 1×1 nm layout will provide ample navigation transit corridors throughout the NE WEA.
Given the many advantages of the proposed 1×1 nm regional layout, the New England lease holders are proud to be working together to present a collaborative solution that they believe accommodates all ocean users in the region. The proposal is a result of the distinct solution and response to specific challenges in New England and would not be applicable to offshore wind leases in other geographies where challenges are different.
Please click here for the report prepared by W.F. Baird & Associates Ltd. and an accompanying letter from the five New England offshore wind leaseholders.
The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) issued the following statement in response:
“The spacing and orientation of wind turbines is not only determinative of fishery access, but more importantly a critical safety issue. After a series of workshops regarding the need for transit corridors in the New England lease areas, our membership was united in supporting the Coast Guard’s efforts to evaluate navigational safety through its MARIPARS study, which is scheduled for release shortly. Any project layout must be supported by evidence that the pattern minimizes risk to fishing and scientific survey vessel operators based on analyses of radar interference, insurance limitations, operability of search and rescue operations, and related factors. We look forward to the results of those ongoing studies and a transparent discussion of their outcomes.”
The Fisheries Survival fund, in contrast, issued the following statement:
“It is unclear what industry requests these developers are responding to, but this proposal does not reflect the position of the scallop industry. It is also unclear how this unsupported proposal, delivered to the Coast Guard for the stated purpose of addressing other maritime interests, will benefit commercial fisheries or promote fishing vessel navigational safety. One nautical mile spacing between turbines neither allows for safe transit nor viable fishing, at least from the scallop fishery’s perspective. Further, scallop fishermen neither transit nor fish based on east-west or north-south orientations. We fish on contours based on depth, and we transit on geographic diagonals to and from our fishing grounds. Simply put, we were not consulted on this proposal, have not supported this proposal in the past, and do not support it now.”