Bay State Wind LLC is changing the turbine layout of its 800-MW Bay State Offshore Wind Project to accommodate the U.S. commercial fishing industry's ability to work between turbines. But fisheries say the changes are too little, too late and underscore their growing frustration with the offshore wind sector.
Bay State Wind, a partnership between Danish energy developer Ørsted A/S and New England utility Eversource Energy, announced on Aug. 6 that the new plan reorganizes wind turbines in rows running east-to-west and incorporates one nautical mile between rows to allow fishing vessels more space to travel through, "keeping in mind the need to balance safe navigation, fishing concerns and clean energy production." The updated turbine layout will be included in Bay State Wind's construction and operations plan that it intends to submit to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management by early 2019.
"We are committed to being strong partners with New England's fishing industry and our neighbors in local communities," Ørsted North America President Thomas Brostrøm said in a news release. "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."
However, the commercial fishing industry is not satisfied with Bay State Wind's changed layout. Meghan Lapp, fisheries liaison for Rhode Island-based frozen seafood producer Seafreeze Ltd., said one-mile-wide transit lanes can make it dangerous for trawl vessels to fish with their nets without hitting other boats or project infrastructure. Buffer zones for each side of a transit lane are also needed due to potential radar interference from the turbines.
"Unfortunately, developers only seem to do what is convenient for them at a low cost in response to fishing issues and concerns," Lapp said. "The right step for a long-term working relationship between the fishing and wind industries is to address these and other commercial fishing concerns before we reach the stage of construction plans. Which is not being done in any meaningful way."
Bonnie Brady, director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said the frustration with Bay State Wind's project is not unfamiliar. She recalled similar issues with Deepwater Wind's Deepwater Offshore Wind Energy Center (South Fork Wind Farm) proposed off of Rhode Island, which has a turbine layout that would require fisheries to make detours that would add hours and costs to fishing trips.
In the end, Brady said Bay State Wind's new layout may deter fishermen altogether from attempting to work around the wind farm.
"We want them two miles apart so we don't die if we attempt to fish in [the offshore wind farms] if we can," Brady said. "Or, if you're going to shove them down our throats, then put them together and say 'no fishing' and compensate us for the losses."
Tensions between project developers and the commercial fishing industry have been an ongoing theme as the U.S. looks to create a domestic offshore wind sector. In 2017, a coalition of fishing organizations and coastal municipalities revived a lawsuit to throw out the New York offshore wind lease for a 1,000-MW offshore wind farm proposed by Equinor, then known as Statoil ASA. Both developers and fisheries raised concerns to the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management about how the federal leasing process for offshore wind projects can be improved to avoid conflicts between the two industries. Until then, it will be up to them to communicate on proposed and developing projects and their potential effects on U.S. fishing.
"The fishing industry can only hope that the wind energy developers finally recognize that U.S. fishermen are going to do whatever is necessary to continue to fish where they please for the foreseeable future," Dave Wallace, a Maryland-based consultant for the ocean clam industry, said in an email. "Developers have two choices, a confrontational way, which is time-consuming and expensive, or through the two industries finding common grounds where both can survive and prosper."