Five U.S. Wind Developers Offer to Lay Out Turbines in Uniform Grid


Published Nov 19, 2019 6:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

In an attempt to address the concerns of regulators and stakeholders, the five major New England offshore wind leaseholders have released a proposal to lay out all of their respective wind turbines on a one-by-one nautical mile grid oriented north-south and east-west.

"This 1x1 nm layout has . . . been confirmed through expert analysis to allow for safe navigation without the need for additional designated transit lanes," the consortium said in a statement. "This proposed layout will provide a uniform, wide spacing among structures to facilitate search and rescue operations."

The proposal is based on an analysis conducted by maritime consultancy W.F. Baird and Associates. Based on AIS data from the last two years, W.F. Baird determined that most traffic in the region is already transiting along the outside edges of or around the wind lease areas. The vessels that do pass through the lease areas are generally fishing vessels on their way to and from fishing grounds. The new proposal aims to give boats up to 400 feet in length enough space to safely navigate through the wind farms on east-west, north-south, NW-SE and NE-SW corridors without creating designated lanes. 

According to the leaseholders - Orsted, Equinor, Vineyard Wind, Eversource and Mayflower Wind - this layout has been specifically requested by fishing interests in stakeholder meetings. In addition, the group says that it addresses concerns from regulators about non-uniform turbine distribution patterns and safety of navigation. The Coast Guard is currently conducting a study on port access routes to evaluate the need for establishing vessel routing measures in wind lease areas. 

"The Coast Guard was concerned that dissimilar array layouts may present a veritable obstacle course through which mariners must navigate. The solution jointly proposed here would address both Coast Guard issues and preserve navigation safety," the consortium said. 

The scallop fishing industry - a longstanding opponent of wind farm development - disagrees with the new grid proposal, according to industry group Fisheries Survival Fund. 

"It is unclear what industry requests these developers are responding to, but this proposal does not reflect the position of the scallop industry," the FSF said in a statement. “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."

The proposal drew praise from the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), the business group representing offshore oil and gas and offshore renewables contractors. 

“By bringing to the table a uniform turbine layout proposal, the five New England offshore wind leaseholders – which include several NOIA members – are offering a viable solution to questions regarding navigational safety, fisheries considerations, distinct transit corridors and the facilitation of search and rescue operations. These leaseholders are building a collaborative approach to problem solving that will benefit all stakeholders," said NOIA President Erik G. Milito.