A planned 200-foot- high wind power test tower at Stafford Township Business Park has won a blessing from the state Pinelands Commission, which granted permission for the temporary structure as township officials and their development partners of the Walters Group investigate the potential for wind turbine energy.
“It’s part of our overall renewable energy project at the business park,” township Administrator Paul Shives said after the commission voted Friday. Along with wind, there are ongoing studies for installing solar panels on large retail buildings to be erected at the park and recycling waste water for irrigation, Shives said.
Depending on the test results, Stafford could become the second Ocean County community to initiate a wind power project. Ocean Gate is the first municipality in the state to launch a turbine project, with the Borough Council’s commitment last month to purchase a 50-kilowatt turbine and tower for an estimated $225,000.
The test tower will go up on township land, but Walters will pay for the equipment and testing, Shives said. If the developers decide it’s worth installing wind generators, the township will benefit by getting a share of the electricity to power its public works center and other facilities at the park, he said.
A wind farm still would need a full review from the Pinelands Commission, “including provisions for the protection of fish and wildlife,” according to commission documents. The area is adjacent to a state wildlife management area, and the business park’s ongoing redevelopment was enabled by the commission’s controversial decision to allow the project to proceed on a site with threatened and endangered plant and animal species.
The Stafford site is west of the Garden State Parkway and a few miles from Barnegat Bay, with its reliable sea breezes. But wind and climate data provided by the wind working group at Rowan University’s Clean Energy Program shows the old landfill area off Recovery Road has potential, Shives said.
“The average wind speed in New Jersey is not enough to warrant a (statewide) wind program. New Jersey, on average, doesn’t look good, but you do find sites that are feasible,” said Ulrich Schwab, a Rowan graduate student who helps professor Peter Jansson run the energy program.
Jansson and his students install research anemometers and collect data to investigate whether sites are suitable for wind generation, and they played a key role in Ocean Gate’s decision to proceed. The anemometer program is on hold for the moment while Rowan researchers await a new round of state funding, but they’re still providing technical advice and data, Schwab said.
The business park redevelopment has been controversial, for special rule exemptions the Pinelands Commission granted to let the project to move forward. In exchange for its role as redeveloper, the Walters organization agreed to take care of the long-delayed excavation and permanent closure of old landfill pits on the property.
Environmental groups were especially dismayed over the Pinelands Commission’s decision to allow construction on habitat of Northern pine snakes – a threatened species in New Jersey – and other rare plants and animals.
But commission officials took the position that moving snakes and altering their habitat was a worthwhile trade-off, to gain the closure of polluting landfills. Stafford Mayor Carl W. Block promised he would press for environmentally sound new technology in the buildings to come.
By Kirk Moore
17 December 2007
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