The Blue Ribbon Panel on Development of Wind Turbine Facilities in Coastal Waters released an interim report that is a precursor to a final report expected in March.
While advocates on opposing sides of the issue took away different things from the report, it is likely to re-ignite the debate over whether giant wind turbines are appropriate off Jersey’s coast.
At least five wind farms are proposed, involving more than 1,000 turbines spread over 234 square miles of ocean. Four of the sites are off Cape May County, while the fifth is off Asbury Park.
The report notes that New Jersey’s energy needs are growing substantially, but states that “wind power alone cannot reduce the State’s dependence on fossil fuels in the short term. Nor can wind power provide `base load’ power needed to meet every day energy demands.”
While the panel found that wind power could offset pollution, “by their very nature and location, however, such facilities may also introduce direct and indirect impacts upon the ocean environment and upon human uses of coastal resources.”
The study noted that the structures could be visible from shore during the day, depending on atmospheric conditions, and that safety lights would be visible at night.
Not having any other basis for gauging economic impacts, an accompanying Rutgers study assumed the towers could either create or result in the loss of nearly 2,400 jobs and $67 million in income in Cape May.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, however, found the study short on insights and scientific data. He expected more from the panel, which acting Gov. Richard J. Codey initiated in December 2004.
“We believe in the use of wind power, if done in the right places,” Tittel said. “It has great potential for the future.”
Tim Dillingham, director of the American Littoral Society, a Sandy Hook-based environmental group, serves on the blue-ribbon panel. He maintains the report will help the panel issue its recommendations in March.
“I don’t think it has been demonstrated clearly that there’s a lot of benefit to them,” he said.