New Jersey has yet to dedicate any money for environmental studies in advance of a test project with up to 80 wind turbines off the coast, according to a state official.
Performing studies “upfront is absolutely critical to ensuring that . . . any project that’s considered is safe for the coast,” said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a coastal conservation group based on Sandy Hook.
“You can’t do one without the other,” said Dillingham, a member of a state blue-ribbon panel that recommended numerous studies last year.
Though implementing a pilot project is “a priority for us,” state officials are still considering the kinds of studies that would be done and the funding issues, said Brendan Gilfillan, a spokesman for Gov. Corzine.
In May, the blue-ribbon panel, cre-ated in 2004 by then-Gov. Richard J. Codey, urged the state to facilitate a pilot project off the coast. But the idea is still a work in progress.
Meanwhile, the federal Minerals Management Service plans to adopt rules covering alternative energy in federal offshore waters in September, said Nicolette Nye, a spokeswoman.
Wind turbines would be covered by such rules.
Aside from proposals for wind farms in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts and off Long Island, the Minerals Management Service is not accepting or reviewing any applications until rules are in place, Nye said.
The state Blue Ribbon Panel on Development of Wind Turbine Facilities in Coastal Waters recommended the following planning efforts, among other work, on behalf of a test project:
New Jersey adopts offshore wind policies.
State agencies oversee the collection of environmental and economic “baseline” data.
The state develops a risk evaluation process for natural living resources.
Equipment needed to connect the project to the electricity grid is studied.
Gilfillan, in an e-mail, said “no dollars have been committed at this point.”
An interagency working group “has been working on the details of this issue and we are moving expeditiously but deliberately to enact the pilot program,” his e-mail said.
The group consists of officials from the state Board of Public Utilities; the Commerce, Economic Growth & Tourism Commission; and the Environmental Protection and Treasury departments.
A recent survey commissioned by the commerce commission indicated that more New Jersey residents and Shore visitors supported offshore wind power development than opposed the idea. But most people also had aesthetic and other concerns.
Dillingham, who filed a minority report to the blue-ribbon panel’s final report, said, “I would hope that the Corzine administration would continue to look at whether or not this is the right place to invest our energy dollars.”
Fossil-fuel plants are needed to back up wind turbines and maintain “constantly available power,” and “the reality is that the wind doesn’t blow often when the energy demand is highest in the summertime, and that’s very much the case in New Jersey,” he said.
Upwards of $6 million – an estimate – would be needed for the necessary studies, he said.
“I think that . . . the littoral society’s position is that the state ought to be more aggressive pursuing conservation and energy efficiency rather than offshore industrial windmills,” Dillingham said.
Windmills “sorely needed”
But Michael Mercurio, founder of Island Wind Inc., Long Beach Township, called the pilot project “an excellent idea. It’s something we . . . sorely need to be built.
“We need to learn to kick the habit of fossil fuels, . . . and technology is advancing in that area,” Mercurio said.
Energy conservation is “good, but our needs and requirements for energy are increasing, which will offset any conservation,” he said.
“Not only does offshore wind create . . . clean renewable energy, but it gives us a second benefit of reef systems in the area for enhancement for aquatic life or fish life, which is sorely needed,” he said.
Dr. Walter Wynkoop of Brick said air pollution – much of it from burning coal – kills more than 60,000 Americans a year, and he’s “a big proponent of windmills as a way to generate clean renewable electricity.”
Windmills are also “a critical component of trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Wynkoop said.
“I think everything that can be done should be done to pursue offshore windmills,” he said.
Next month, the Minerals Management Service plans to publish proposed rules and a draft environmental impact statement on alternative energy and alternate uses of offshore platforms in federal waters, Nye said.
Alternative energy includes wind, wave, current and solar energy, along with the generation of hydrogen. Federal waters are those more than three nautical miles from the coast.
A 60-day public comment period and public hearings would follow publication of the proposed rules and draft impact statement in the Federal Register, Nye said.
The final impact statement would be released in August, and the plan is to adopt rules in September, she said.
This story includes material from previous Press stories.
By Todd B. Bates
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