U.S. Coast Guard readies for offshore renewable energy challenges
In the not so distant future, deep-sea vessels transiting the U.S. East Coast may see rows of offshore wind turbines on the horizon.
The Coast Guard is working with federal agencies involved in offshore energy activities — namely the Minerals Management Service and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — on how the placement of offshore wind turbines may impact coastal vessel navigation.
“Radar is a very hot topic right now,” George Detweiler, marine transportation specialist in the Coast Guard’s Office of Waterways Management, told attendees of MarineLog’s Global Greenship Conference in Washington Sept. 17. “No denying (wind turbines) have influence on radar, but we don’t know to what extent.”
Two offshore wind farms that have raised substantial public debate are the proposed Long Island Offshore Wind Park, which would include about 40 wind turbines spread over an eight square mile area off Jones Beach, and the CapeWind project on Nantucket Sound, which proposes the use of about 130 turbines covering a 24-square-mile area offshore.
MMS has identified about 40 federal offshore sites with the potential for wind and other renewable energies development, including the coasts of New Jersey, Delaware, Florida, Georgia and Northern California.
Detweiler said the Coast Guard must ensure that offshore wind farms don’t harm navigation. “The Coast Guard will not approve or disapprove a project or issue permits,” he said. “We can only give recommendations to the agencies.”
MMS is expected to release its final regulations for offshore renewable energy development before the end of the year.
On the side, Detweiler told American Shipper the Coast Guard has discussed the impact of offshore wind farms on vessel navigation with its counterparts in Northern Europe where the technology is already prevalent.
He said in the future it may come down to the federal government establishing fairways on the East Coast to separate vessel traffic from offshore wind and other renewable energy facilities, much like those that were created for the offshore oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico. ' Chris Gillis