US projects concede spacing to fisheries demands -- updated

Developers of offshore wind projects off the northeast US coast have agreed to space their turbines in line with some of the demands of the local fishing industry. It should not affect the timeline of the 800MW Vineyard 1 site in Massachusetts.

The fishing industry in the US has held strong opposition against offshore wind projects in the US

The proposal from developers Equinor, Mayflower Wind, Ørsted-Eversource, and Vineyard Wind, covers seven lease areas. 

It suggets turbines will be installed one nautical mile (1.9km) apart and arranged in east-west rows and north-south columns. 

"In response to feedback from key stakeholders, we have proposed to adopt a uniform turbine layout across our adjacent New England lease areas," said the leaseholders.

"This uniform layout has subsequently been proposed to the United States Coast Guard (USCG) for its review."

"[It] is consistent with the requests of the region’s fisheries industry and other maritime users," they added.

Vessels up to 122m length can safely operate within the proposed layout, by creating 231 transit corridors, they said.

Some fishing representatives have reacted unfavourably to the developers’ proposal, saying it is inadequate and that they still need transit corridors through wind projects that are 4 nautical miles (7.4km) wide.

"For the developers to ignore all the input they received… and say ‘we are being responsive to fishing industry needs’ is extremely disingenuous," Meghan Lapp, fisheries liaison with the processor Seafreeze Ltd, told the Martha’s Vineyard Times.

If the spacing of 1 x 1 nautical miles was applied to Vineyard, the project would not need to be resubmitted to the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) because the agency has already considered that spacing as an alternative.

However, Vineyard would need to conduct more survey work.

Permitting for the project, the most advanced in the region, has been delayed in large part because of concerns about the impact on fishing.

The fishing industry objected to Vineyard’s spacing of the turbines of 0.75 nautical miles (1.4km), saying it was too tight for them to operate safely.

They also objected to the orientation of the rows of turbines, from northwest to southeast, which they said is at odds with their traditional east-west routes.

"While there cannot be a one-size-fits all approach to wind projects in different geographies, we can work to find the best practices that will both develop clean energy and meet local concerns," said Laura Smith Morton, AWEA's senior director of policy and regulatory affairs for offshore wind.