Updated Jan. 23
Danish wind energy giant Orsted, a joint partner in Bay State Wind and the new owner of Deepwater Wind, has forged a formal communications arrangement with the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), a coalition of parties representing Eastern seaboard fishing interests.
“This first-of-its-kind partnership will create an unprecedented opportunity for commercial fishermen to provide direct input to the wind energy industry on matters of significant interest to their businesses,” according to a release. “Under this partnership, both industries will remain autonomous but provide a platform to move towards workable solutions. While nonbinding in nature, it is RODA and Orsted’s hope that discussions will prove beneficial to all parties involved.”
The agreement is meant to foster face-to-face talks, RODA board member Meghan Lapp told The Times. Lapp is a fisheries liaison for Seafreeze Ltd., a Rhode Island fishing enterprise. “This is uncharted ground for both the fishing industry and the offshore wind industry,” Lapp said of the agreement.
Lapp said RODA has yet to schedule its first session with Orstead since making the agreement, but it has previously met with the the energy company in conjunction with Vineyard Wind and the formerly independent Deepwater Wind for transit workshops. The workshops sought to find a solution for maritime traffic, especially fishing vessels, to pass through the wind farm areas. As The Times reported in December, Vineyard Wind publicly backed two-mile wide transit corridors through its lease area. Fishermen have demanded four-mile-wide corridors. Other wind farm developers, including Orsted, haven’t come out in support of particular widths, Lapp said.
Lapp said RODA would like to craft a similar communications agreement with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables, the parent companies of Vineyard Wind.
An ongoing concern for RODA is radar interference from the wind turbines, she said. She noted a marine guidance document by the Coast Guard of the U.K. found wind turbines generated radar interference at a radius of 1.5 nautical miles. The information used in the document drew from evaluations of earlier types of wind turbines — ones half as tall and many times less powerful than the ones proposed for or already built in New England waters, she said.
The aggregate wind farm lease areas in the Southern New England Atlantic are larger than the state of Rhode Island, she said. She is afraid the whole area could become a snowy blur on marine and aeronautical radar screens. For fishing vessels passing through the area, she said, she fears they could lose their bearings, particularly in foul weather. “You don’t want to put traffic lanes in areas where radar is not going to work,” she said.
Unlike the British, “[w]e actually don’t have any radar studies,” she added.
The U.S. Coast Guard was unable to respond to inquiries about radar interference from the lease areas due to the government shutdown.
Lapp pointed out a wind farm connected to Amazon and Avangrid Renewables may hamper a military radar too.
A Navy installation operating a relocatable over-the-horizon-radar (ROTHR) facility in Virginia may be affected by Amazon Wind Farm in North Carolina, both the Carolina Journal and the Virginian-Pilot reported.
“In June 2012, the government’s ROTHR Program Office released a study concluding that a large-scale wind farm should be no closer than 28 miles from a ROTHR facility to prevent interference with the radar’s operation,” Carolina Journal reported. “The Navy released a map showing the ‘interference awareness area’ in relation to the ROTHR receiving facility in southern Virginia. The Amazon Wind Farm covers about 20,000 acres. It begins about 14 miles from the ROTHR facility, stretching to a point about 22 miles away. It is entirely within the 28-mile interference awareness area described in the 2012 study.”
In the same article, Carolina Journal reported a North Carolina county commissioner demanded wind farms be purged from his county “[i]n the name of national security.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy was not immediately available to comment on the subject.
Lapp said the danger of radar interference in the lease areas off Rhode Island and Massachusetts is real, and deserves focused investigation. Fishermen deserve to have safety questions answered, she said. “These are questions we don’t want to find out the answers to later,” she said.
Orsted was unable to immediately comment on the subject of radar interference. However, an Eversource spokesman previously told The Times that Bay State Wind, which is a joint venture between Eversource and Orsted, is actively troubleshooting potential problems between radar systems and wind turbines. Vineyard Wind has repeatedly declined to speak on the subject of radar interference relative to its project. However, company spokesman Scott Farmelant pointed to some European studies that concluded anomalies such as false echoes were easy for marine radar users to identify, making navigation through or around a wind farm safe.
Farmelant also shared passages from the New York State Offshore Wind Master Plan which indicated “some” or moderate” radar impact. A closer look at that literature revealed information derived from the Coast Guard’s study of potential radar problems from Cape Wind.
“Past investigations and studies on the effect of offshore wind farms on marine navigation systems found that wind farms have the potential to create clearly visible clutter on radar screens, which can impact operational capabilities under certain conditions,” a radar subsection of the report states. “Other studies have determined differing degrees of impacts of wind turbines on typical marine radars, ranging from minimal to severe. In 2008 the USCG completed an assessment of potential impacts on marine radar as part of the Cape Wind Final Environmental Impact Statement. The report cited two principal concerns: the potential for impact of radar antenna beamwidth and sidelobes on the detectability of other vessels, and interference caused by secondary reflections off the wind turbines, resulting in false targets. According to the report, secondary reflections are caused when the radar signal is reflected from a wind turbine, then back, and between turbines, then back to the radar. Each of these scenarios can cause false targets to appear. Historically, marine radars have not included Doppler processing, although this is no longer true of all vessel radars. Doppler systems are now available for smaller commercial and recreational vessels. For radar that utilize Doppler, the moving blades of a wind turbine can have a significant negative effect on the system’s ability to detect other moving targets and vessels. Other potential interference can result from echoes created by the turbines, which present high radar cross-section values. Radar echoes of small crafts within a wind farm could potentially merge with strong echoes generated by the turbines when the craft pass close to the towers, making the craft invisible to radar systems. Although no specific interference concerns related to onboard radar systems were identified during DOD [Department of Defense] outreach and engagement, coordination with the DOD, USCG, and commercial vessel operators about potential wind energy sites is recommended. The specific types and occurrences of potential interference are assumed to be accounted for in the DOD Offshore Wind Mission Compatibility Assessment, completed in 2013. However, specific details are not provided in the version of the assessment available for non-DOD personnel, and thus coordination at the project development stage should occur to ensure the highest degree of compatibility possible.”