Five New England offshore wind leaseholders – Equinor, Mayflower Wind, Ørsted/Eversource, and Vineyard Wind – have announced that a uniform turbine layout has been submitted to the US Coast Guard with one nautical mile spacing between wind turbines
The companies issued a joint statement, in which they said, “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 been subsequently 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 one nautical mile 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: navigational safety; the fisheries community’s request for uniform and consistent spacing between turbines throughout the NE WEA; creation of distinct transit corridors; and facilitation of search and rescue operations conducted by both vessel and aircraft.
The New England offshore wind leaseholders also submitted a report prepared by WF Baird & Associates Ltd to the USCG that analyses the uniform layout using international vessel safety guidelines. The company’s analysis was based on automatic identification system data between 2017 and 2018.
The key findings in their report include that 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 400ft in length can safely operate within the proposed 1 x 1 nautical mile layout, and historical transit data shows vessels over this length tend to follow existing Traffic Separation Schemes already outside the NE WEA.
The uniform 1x1 nm layout will provide ample navigation transit corridors throughout the NE WEA.
The New England lease holders said they believe the plan 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.
Responding to the announcement, National Ocean Industries Association president Erik Milito said, “By bringing to the table a uniform turbine layout, the New England offshore wind leaseholders are offering a viable solution to questions regarding navigational safety, fisheries, transit corridors and the facilitation of search and rescue operations. The leaseholders are developing a collaborative approach to problem solving that will benefit all stakeholders.”