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Wind pilot project off N.J. could fly; State seeks studies at cost up to $4.5M  

Hoboken-based Bluewater Wind, which wants to build a wind turbine park off Delaware’s Atlantic coast, is interested in building a pilot project off New Jersey, according to a company official.

Meanwhile, New Jersey is seeking proposals for offshore ecological studies – from Seaside Park to Stone Harbor – that would be completed by Sept. 30, 2009, at a cost of up to $4.5 million.

“It really moves the ball forward on gathering information that’s needed before any construction activity occurs,” said Theodore J. Korth, special counsel to the New Jersey Audubon Society and a member of the state’s blue ribbon panel on offshore wind.

But the studies “seem to be aimed at determining where windmills can be sited” instead of whether they’re appropriate and can be built without harming the coast, said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the Sandy Hook-based American Littoral Society and another blue ribbon panel member.

Bluewater Wind is one of several companies that have expressed interest in recent years in building wind turbine farms off New Jersey. The state wants ecological studies to be done in advance of a recommended test project with up to 80 wind turbines, or up to 350 megawatts of electricity.

New Jersey should facilitate a test project, the state Blue Ribbon Panel on Development of Wind Turbine Facilities in Coastal Waters said in a report released a year ago.

“Because of the recommendations made by the blue ribbon panel, studies are ongoing . . . to help us better determine the use of wind energy,” said Elaine Makatura, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“We don’t want to be hasty and jump to recommendations without fully analyzing this issue and its impact on all fronts,” she said.

But “it will be scientifically impossible to get credible answers from the proposed study,” said Jennifer Samson, principal scientist for Clean Ocean Action, a Sandy Hook-based coalition, in an e-mailed statement.

State Board of Public Utilities regulations require that 20 percent of New Jersey’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar or wave power, by 2020.

It would not be possible for New Jersey to meet that goal “without extensive . . . wind resources,” said Jim Lanard, director of strategic planning and communications for Bluewater Wind.

And there’s not enough wind onshore for a utility-scale wind plant, said Lanard, executive director of the New Jersey Environmental Lobby from 1982-86.

“Offshore wind is a huge potential resource for New Jersey, but it is not the only option if you consider all Class 1” renewable energy resources within the PJM area, BPU spokesman Doyal Siddell said.

Class 1 resources include wind and solar power, among others, according to a BPU document on the Web.

PJM Interconnection coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, according to PJM’s Web site.

Gov. Corzine’s proposed state budget for 2007-08 includes $4.5 million for an 18-month study of birds, marine mammals, turtles and other species off the coast.

Bids for the proposed “ecological baseline studies” are due by May 25, according to a DEP document on the Web.

The proposals would address a blue ribbon panel recommendation and provide information necessary to assess the potential impacts of offshore wind turbine facilities on the region’s natural and ecological resources, the document says.

The studies seek to determine “the current distribution and usage of this area by ecological resources,” the document says.

“For example, the waters off New Jersey’s coast serve numerous species of birds and are a critical part of the Atlantic Flyway, an important migration route for many species,” including those that are threatened, endangered or of special concern, the document says.

The studies’ goal is to provide data to help determine potential areas for offshore wind-power development, the document says.

The study area, which runs from Seaside Park to Stone Harbor in Cape May County, extends to 20 nautical miles, or 23 statute miles, offshore.

The area covers about 1,360 square nautical miles, excluding Delaware Bay and areas “with known major constraints for offshore wind power,” such as air-restricted zones, significant water habitat and shipping lanes, the document says.

The research project would be done from Sept. 1 through Sept. 30, 2009, with field work running from Oct. 1 until March 31, 2009.

With no cost overruns allowed, the project’s funding ceiling is $4.464 million.

Ed Dlugosz, president of Monmouth County Friends of Clearwater, an environmental group, said in an e-mail that he found the solicitation to be “well thought out.”

“The only real downside is that it may be hard to imagine that the bidders can accomplish” all of the work within the $4.5 million limit on “a highly labor-intensive project,” he wrote in the e-mail.

The solicitation encourages contractors to “bring along additional monies from federal or other grant sources,” he noted.

Lanard, of Bluewater Wind, said “it’s impressive that any state would spend that much to establish the baseline and it really honors the commitment” made by the blue ribbon panel.

Bluewater Wind, owned by president Peter Mandelstam, does not plan to submit a proposal to do baseline studies so as to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, according to an e-mail from Lanard.

“We want to compete for the . . . 350 megawatts for the pilot project,” he said in an interview last week.

“We would prefer to be able to select a site” because there’s a lot of proprietary data and research involved in identifying a good offshore wind park site, Lanard said.

But if New Jersey identifies a site, “we’ll compete that way, too, provided our wind experts tell us” that the wind there meets the company’s needs, he said.

Bluewater Wind, which has former Gov. James J. Florio as a consultant, is also interested in building wind turbines off New York and possibly Rhode Island, according to Lanard and the company’s Web site.

“Bluewater Wind agrees that conservation and energy efficiency must be a very important component of any state’s energy portfolio,” Lanard said. “But conservation and energy efficiency alone without new power generation will not meet the nation’s thirst for electricity.”

By Todd B. Bates
Environmental Writer
Asbury Park Press


7 May 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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