Cape Wind would pose hazards to marine vessel navigation, air traffic control, fishing vessel and gear deployment, and search and rescue efforts. The navigation chart below shows the 25 square mile footprint of the Cape Wind project, which is dangerously close to passenger ferry (green) and shipping routes (blue and red).
Cape Wind’s proposed turbines present 130 obstacles to navigation. The proposed Cape Wind project would be directly adjacent to a major shipping lane and passenger ferry routes. For a ship or boat traveling at just over 5 knots, the turbines would be spaced about 2 minutes apart, and only one minute apart at a speed of 12 knots jeopardizing a ship or boat crew’s ability to take avoidance action in an emergency.
The British Chamber of Shipping “has confirmed that there may be an impact on air and marine radar within 1.5 nautical miles of turbines” and “advocates the adoption of a precautionary separation zone of at least two nautical miles from recognized shipping lanes.” The McGowan Group, in its February, 2006 assessment report: Impact of UK Offshore Renewable Energy Guidelines, concluded that under UK standards and guidelines, the [Cape Wind] project lacks a detailed navigation risk assessment. “The impacts of this project to marine transportation, the marine environment and public safety are significant in a region plagued with challenging weather and currents for its varied waterway traffic.”
A previous 2004 McGowan Group report focusing on the project’s navigational safety impacts concluded that the Cape Wind project is “incompatible with the needs of marine transportation” in Nantucket Sound and poses unacceptable and unnecessary risk to cruise ships and ferry vessels, oil transport, fishing, and recreational users due to its proximity to active shipping channels.”
The Steamship and Hy-Line ferries, which transport roughly 3 million passengers each year, are critical of placing an industrial power plant in the middle of Nantucket Sound. The Steamship Authority, which makes more than 14,000 trips to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard each year, states that the wind power plant “has the potential for creating a significant hazard to safe navigation.” They go on to explain that “the concluding factor is that the proposed complex offers a significant number of potential hazards that cannot be ignored. Maritime history is testimony to the fact that accidents at sea happen quickly, often without warning, and in locations where they were least expected to occur.”
Studies by the British Ministry of Defense show that wind turbines confuse radar systems, causing air traffic controllers to lose track of planes in flight. Here in the United States, the United States Department of Defense (DOD) recently confirmed that wind turbines located within “line of sight” can interfere with radar systems.
In terms of the Cape Wind project, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must issue a new hazard determination because of changes in Cape Wind’s footprint and an increase in the height of each turbine from 417 to 440 feet.
Search and Rescue
The Cape Wind project would compromise Coast Guard search and rescue efforts. The inability of the Coast Guard to perform helicopter rescues in bad weather in the project area is of great concern.
According to William H. Rypka, retired Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander, “Had [the turbines] been in place there is no possible way that a safe search by helicopter could have been conducted, much less the person rescued.”
Because of the safety hazards posed by the construction and operation of offshore wind turbines, virtually every offshore wind project in Europe has some sort of public access and/or fishing restriction.
The McGowan report found that after construction, exclusionary zones may be required throughout the wind plant or around the base of each tower for the 20-25 year life of the project. The entire 25-square mile area could be closed to all fishing throughout the project’s life due to the significant navigational risk to commercial and recreational boats and the high likelihood of a marine casualty. This would have serious effects for Cape fishermen who derive as much as 60% of their livelihood from fishing in Horseshoe Shoal.