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New England wind turbine plan proposed to allay concerns

The companies that hold offshore wind leases off New England announced their support Tuesday for a plan to maintain equal spacing between wind turbines creating a grid across the seven adjacent lease areas that they say will be easier for mariners to navigate.

The plan, which was prepared by maritime consultants W.F. Baird & Associates Ltd., will be reviewed by the Coast Guard and is supported by the various New England offshore wind leaseholders: Equinor, Mayflower Wind, Ørsted-Eversource, and Vineyard Wind, which controls two of the lease areas.

The leaseholders said in a joint statement that the plan accommodates requests by maritime stakeholders including commercial fisherman and the Coast Guard for the turbine layouts to be consistent across the lease areas and will allow mariners to safely transit through the areas.

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

The plan proposes spacing the turbines one nautical mile apart, arranged in east-west rows and north-south columns to form a grid pattern across all New England lease areas.

The leaseholders are urging the Coast Guard and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to support the plan.

Three of the companies are competing to supply offshore wind power to Connecticut. Constitution Wind, the partnership between Ørsted and Eversource; Mayflower Wind, a joint venture between Shell New Energies and EDPR Renewables North America; and Vineyard Wind, a pairing of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables, have all responded to the state's request for proposal seeking up to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind power.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is expected to make a decision this month and could choose to award multiple offshore wind contracts.

The plan unveiled Tuesday is the latest effort by the offshore wind industry to attempt to appease the commercial fishermen who have expressed a host of concerns with the industry and how it might impact their business.

The leaseholders say the proposal has the support of various fishing groups, but Joe Gilbert, who has a fleet of four commercial boats based at the Stonington Town Dock, said he and other Stonington-based fishermen have consistently requested the wind turbines be spaced two nautical miles apart at a minimum. He said he knows of other fishermen along the Northeast coast including in New Jersey and Massachusetts who have also requested two-mile spacing between turbines.

Needed spacing, placement and orientation of wind turbines differ by fisherman depending on the type of gear used, Gilbert said. Trawlers that tow nets along ocean bottoms require more room to deploy, retrieve and handle their gear, for example.

"The spacing has to be inclusive of all fisheries and gear types," Gilbert said.



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