Offshore wind planners engage with maritime industry

Offshore wind power planners are coming to grips with potential user conflicts in the New York Bight, where state officials in New York and New Jersey want to develop vast arrays of wind turbines by 2030.

Nearly 6 gigawatts (GW) of power could potentially flow to shore from existing federal leases and additional areas on the continental shelf, under those ambitious plans. That would be roughly equivalent to nine first-generation commercial nuclear reactors like Oyster Creek in New Jersey, the nation’s first commercial nuclear plant now scheduled for permanent shutdown by the end of 2018 after a half-century of operation.

Building that new energy infrastructure would overlay on some of the busiest waters along the U.S. East Coast, crisscrossed with shipping lanes, commercial fishing fleets and undersea cables.

A report by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority already calls for making an early adjustment to the state’s proposed future wind energy areas (WEAs). That recommendation would take out a substantial chunk to ensure vessels have adequate sea room in the Ambrose to Hudson traffic separation lanes to and from New York Harbor.

State energy planners recommend reducing proposed wind farm areas to allow more sea room for shipping off New York. NYSERDA image.

State energy planners recommend reducing proposed wind farm areas to allow more sea room for shipping off New York. NYSERDA image.

It is just one of what will be many modifications, as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management weighs state requests to offer up more lease areas off the power-hungry mid-Atlantic urban corridor.

So far, BOEM deems a buffer of one nautical mile between separation lanes and wind farms to be sufficient for navigational safety — a standard common to European offshore wind installations, the NYSERDA report notes.

But another Coast Guard appraisal looks for two nautical miles as a buffer. That will be a likely point of debate with the recent arrival of 1,200’ neo-Panamax containerships into New York and other East Coast ports.

“It is difficult to apply a standardized minimum distance between wind farms and navigation routes, as risks will vary depending on the location, proximity of turbines to a route boundary, prevailing metocean (meteorological and ocean) conditions, and existing and future vessel traffic profiles,” the report says.

To develop its plans further NYSERDA will rely heavily on four technical working groups with advisors on environmental, maritime, fishing and wind power supply chain issues, said Greg Lampman, NYSERDA’s environmental research program manager.

In 2018 New York will put out its first requests for proposals (RFPs) for energy from wind power, and state officials expect they will get up to six offerings from wind developers who already have federal leases, including those off New Jersey and southern New England.

Meanwhile, those developers who are farther along, like Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind, are contending with resistance from the commercial fishing industry. Representatives from Deepwater, Vineyard Wind, Bay State Wind and BOEM sat Feb. 12 for a parley with skeptical fishermen in New Bedford, Mass., a fishing port that state officials also hope will be a hub for developing offshore wind energy.

Rodney Avila, a prominent figure in the New Bedford fishing community and a former member of the New England Fishery Management Council, joined Deepwater as the company’s fisheries liaison, working out of its New Bedford office.

Wind developers could have more success persuading the recreational fishing industry they can co-exist. On Wednesday the American Wind Energy Association released a video, produced by the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind at the University of Delaware, that shows the colonization of Deepwater’s Block Island Wind Farm by blue mussels and other marine life that attract fish.

Before the turbine foundations were installed in summer 2016, “it was pretty much an unfished piece of ocean,” said Chris Hobe, operator of Fish the World Charters, whose Block Island company has a new business line taking customers of tours of the wind farm.

The five-turbine, 30 MW Block Island project is the first commercial U.S. offshore wind farm and a test site for the first ongoing studies of how those installations may affect fisheries.

So far gill net fishermen and operators of mobile gear like trawls and lobster trap lines have been able to work in the half-mile gaps between the towers, said Aileen Kenney, Deepwater’s vice president for permitting and environmental affairs. The company’s planned 15-turbine, 90 MW South Fork project east of Long Island will have a larger footprint to allow more sea room for bigger fishing vessels with mobile gear, she said.




About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.


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    Like most anti-nuclear advocates, the author of this article conflates generation capacity with energy production. The proposed windmills will not produce the same equivalent power of nine Oyster Creek-style nuclear plants. Capacity is not production. Oyster Creek is a prodigious producer of emissions-free energy, a little over 5 billion kwhrs of energy per year, all on a site whose footprint is about 800 acres. The plant has a 95% capacity factor. The latest figures from the US EIA seem to show the average wind energy capacity factor is about 30%, which fluctuations on either side of this from 25% to 40%. Assuming a best-case capacity factor of maybe 35% (still non-dispatchable energy), 6 GW of installed capacity will get you a little over 18 billion kwhrs, or about 3 1/2 times the production of Oyster Creek, not nine times the amount implied by conflating capacity with production. If you assume the new windmills will have a 6 MW capacity, 6 GW total capacity will require 1000 windmills. If each are separated by one-half mile for clearance of shipping traffic, you’re talking about a linear distance of 500 miles. Using the CRS method of coastline length, NJ’s coastline is 130 miles, so you’re talking about blanketing the NJ coast four times over with windmills, an environmental footprint of hundreds or perhaps over a thousand square miles (compared to the OCNGS station’s 800 acres).

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