Add the three wind turbines towering over Blackburn Industrial Park in Gloucester, two turbines looming in Ipswich and a single spinning blade at Mark Richey Woodworking in Newburyport and multiply by 333. That’s about the number of wind turbines we could see far off the Atlantic coastline in 10 years. 

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last week issued a supplement to a draft environmental impact statement for the Vineyard Wind I project, planned 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. For anyone who has watched the starts and stops on wind turbine proposals off the New England coast  this estimate — 2,000 offshore wind turbines by 2030 — must sound like a joke.

But in its supplement to a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind I project — 84 turbines — the bureau did make that projection. Just last August the same bureau said it was withholding the impact statement so it could study the wider impacts of the wind turbine industry in mid-Atlantic waters also used by the commercial fishing industry. 

The bureau won’t make a final decision on the Vineyard Wind I permit until December, State House News Service reported, and there are a 45-day public comment period and five virtual public meetings planned in the interim.

Fishermen will be paying close attention as this permit for the first wind turbines off the U.S. coastline moves forward. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s supplement concluded “major cumulative effects could occur on commercial fisheries” under Vineyard Wind I’s proposal. Couple that with the bureau’s projection that 22 gigawatts of offshore wind energy — that’s the 2,000 wind turbines — could be developed along the outer Continental Shelf, and you see the reason for concern within the fishing industry.

In the long haul, New England needs the huge, untapped resource of electricity generated by wind turbines far offshore. And we also need to maintain a viable fishing industry in the process. Regulators and the fishing industry should look at the numerous large-scale wind turbine projects off the coast of Europe and elsewhere to help make this happen.

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