NEW BEDFORD – As offshore wind companies jockey for position in preparation for Massachusetts’ next round of bidding, Bay State Wind announced an adjustment to its proposal earlier this week.
According to Lauren Burm, the head of public affairs for Bay State Wind, after speaking with “key stakeholders including the fishing community,” the company altered its proposal in terms of spacing between turbines to a nautical mile in rows running east to west..
“Based on their helpful feedback we have adjusted our layout to better accommodate fishing patterns and vessel transiting through the wind farm, while also maintaining efficiency and maximizing power production,” Burm said.
Those within the industry disagree that the adjustment by Bay State Wind, a partnership between Orstead and Eversource, helps fishermen navigate.“There’s no way a mile spacing would result in a safe transit,” New Bedford scalloper Eric Hansen said.
Similar sentiment has been expressed in the past by fishermen.
Hansen said he traveled to Europe, specifically Great Britain, to learn more about the offshore wind farms.
He said the turbines are spaced less than a mile apart, however, the fishing vessels are much smaller, too.
When he spoke to fishermen across the pond, he learned they were wary of navigating between the turbines.
“If the little boats are afraid to go in there, there’s no way a trawler from New Bedford is going to go in there,” Hansen said.
Hansen said at least 2 miles would be needed for safe navigation. With fog or severe weather, he said, a mile isn’t enough distance to decipher between a vessel or a turbine.
“Maybe in perfect weather they can go in there, but perfect weather doesn’t happen very often out there,” Hansen said.
In May, Vineyard Wind was awarded an 800-megawatt wind farm about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Deepwater Wind was also offered a contract for a 400-megawatt wind farm.
Vineyard Wind’s current layout is in a northeast to southwest orientation, but with the spacing at least eight-tenths of a mile apart, according to Vineyard Wind’s website.
Vineyard Wind has spent years working with 100 fishing representatives to understand concerns, according to a statement emailed by Erich Stephens, chief development officer for the company, in response to questions of whether or not Vineyard Wind will consider changing their layout to an east-west orientation. The project was designed “to be friendly to the industry” and make transit between turbines and through corridors easier for fishing boats, Stephens wrote.
“We remain committed to working with the commercial fishing sector as we advance in the permitting process,” he wrote.
Massachusetts law states that another solicitation must be announced within 24 months of the last procurement.
“We are committed to being strong partners with New England’s fishing industry and our neighbors in local communities,” said President of Orsted North America Thomas Brostrom in a statement. “As we continue to design sustainable energy for the state, we have taken steps to make the layout of wind turbines more fishing friendly while maintaining energy optimization. We will continue to work with agencies, stakeholders, and other developers towards a clean energy future.”
The Cape Cod Times contributed to this article.
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