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Offshore wind leaseholders propose uniform turbine layout

The five New England offshore wind leaseholders – Equinor, Mayflower Wind, Ørsted/Eversource, and Vineyard Wind – have submitted a uniform turbine layout proposal to the U.S. Coast Guard with 1 nautical mile (nm) spacing between wind turbines.

In a joint statement, the companies said the uniform layout is consistent with the requests of the region’s fisheries industry and other maritime users, and would allow mariners to safely transit from one end of the New England Wind Energy Area to the other without unexpected obstacles.

“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,” the statement said.

The proposal specifies that turbines would 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. The grid creates the equivalent of 231 transit lanes in four different key directions: E-W, NW-SE, N-S and SW-NE.

For all but the very largest vessels transiting in the region – and for fishing vessels of all sizes – the 1 nm spacing between turbines would allow for safe navigation among the turbines, the companies said. This conclusion applies to vessels that might be passing or overtaking each other, and considers the need to make emergency turns, even with fishing gear deployed. Moreover, the proposal would afford an even greater level of flexibility and safety for search-and-rescue operations, by both vessel and aircraft.

“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,” the companies said.

The proposal reflects considerable written and oral public comments from New England maritime stakeholders.

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 the report prepared by W.F. Baird & Associates Ltd., a leading vessel and port safety consultant, 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’ 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.

The New England lease holders called the proposal a collaborative solution that they believe accommodates all ocean users in the region. It is the distinct solution and response to specific challenges in New England and would not be applicable to offshore wind leases in other geographies, which face different challenges.