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Migratory bird flyways, turbine locations must be considered

Bluewater Wind would like to put wind turbines at least 6 nautical miles, or nearly 7 regular miles, offshore for two reasons, a company official says.

“All our ornithologists and . . . all the avian experts tell us” that nearly all migratory bird flyways are much closer to land, and the issue of whether wind turbines can be seen is “almost a nonissue because it’s so far out,” said Jim Lanard, director of strategic planning and communications.

But David Mizrahi, an avian ecologist and vice president of research for the New Jersey Audubon Society, said, “I’d be a lot more cautious about (the bird issue) than he is.”

People who go on boats much farther than 6 miles off New Jersey to see pelagic birds can see them “in very large numbers,” said Mizrahi, who often uses radar to study bird and bat movement patterns.

While Europe has numerous offshore wind facilities, none has been built so far in the United States. Proposals are pending for wind farms off Cape Cod, Long Island and Delaware.

Bluewater Wind’s proposal for a wind park off Delaware is competing against bids for an onshore coal plant and an onshore natural gas plant, Lanard said.

The 600-megawatt offshore wind park would cost about $2 billion and provide enough energy for 130,000 homes, he said.

Wind turbines would be a maximum of 410 feet high overall, including 263-foot towers and rotor blades about 150 feet long, according to an e-mail from Lanard.

“You’re rarely going to see the blade,” he said in an interview. “First of all, it’s narrower and it’s in constant motion, other than when the wind’s not blowing.”

“It will be very difficult to see (wind turbines) . . . from shore, 6 to 12 nautical miles” out, said Douglas L. Pfeister, Bluewater Wind senior vice president and New Jersey project director.

But an object 263 feet above the water would disappear below the horizon if it’s at least 25.1 highway miles or farther from an observer, assuming the observer’s eyes are six feet above the water, according to Lanard’s e-mail.

An object 410 feet high would disappear below the horizon if it’s 30.6 miles or farther away.

Birds would avoid the wind turbines, Pfeister said, who cited data from Europe.

“The main thing that happens is the birds, when (they) see the wind farm, they basically avoid the wind farm,” he said. “They sweep around the wind farm. When they go through it, they go below rotor height or above rotor height . . . but the main behavior is an avoidance behavior. They’ll avoid the wind park.”

But if marine radar is used, “birds the size of sea ducks are probably visible only about six miles away and then they become more difficult to detect,” Mizrahi said.

“The farther out you want to look with the radar to detect birds, the larger the bird has to be in order for it to be detected,” he said.

Birds’ avoidance of wind farms “may represent habitat loss,” among other concerns, Mizrahi said.

Still, “if anything, our agenda is to bring renewable energy . . . capacity in a variety of forms to fruition, and wind would be one of those,” he said. “It’s just they need to be sized properly” to minimize the impact.

Meanwhile, Lanard said there will not be an “exclusion zone” around turbines.

And a New Jersey offshore wind farm would benefit shore areas, Pfeister said.

“We can bring power in from the East and avoid” electric transmission bottlenecks, he said.

The issue of where to hook into the electric system is important, Lanard said.

Bluewater Wind wants to find, if possible, electric substations with the capacity or space for expansion “that can make it economically feasible to bring the power on shore,” he said.

“We’ve evaluated all the substations on the New Jersey Shore . . . and we’re still in (the) evaluation process,” Pfeister said.

The electric cable from the wind park will be about six feet under the seabed floor and “won’t rear its head . . . until way inland,” Lanard said.

By Todd B. Bates
Environmental Writer
Asbury Park Press


7 May 2007