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Coast Guard base considers using wind turbines  

The U.S. Coast Guard is looking into building two large wind turbines at Training Center Cape May as a way to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

The plans, outlined in a presentation Friday morning before the Cape May Energy Committee, still await more study on the potential impact on migrating birds and other environmental issues. One of the bigger questions, however, has already been answered.

“The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., determined this is a great place for wind energy,” said the Coast Guard’s Richard Ker, who briefed the committee on the project.

For the past 10 months, NREL has been gathering wind data from atop communication towers at the base. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best site for wind energy, NREL has given the site a rating of 4, said Chief Warrant Officer Veronica Bandrowsky, a base spokeswoman.

“We are a viable location. The wind studies showed we are viable, and now we are going to move forward,” Bandrowsky said.

Ker said if the studies show no major environmental impacts, or if any impacts can be mitigated, the Coast Guard will move forward because “it’s the right thing to do.” He noted it will not save the Coast Guard any money since any savings go directly to the U.S. Treasury.

“The less foreign fuel we use, the better we’re off. That’s a big motivator. The federal government of the U.S. is the largest user of energy in the world,” Ker said.

A 2005 law, the federal Energy Policy Act, requires that at least 5 percent of a government agency’s power consumption be derived from renewable sources by the year 2010. The Coast Guard, however, operates under the Department of Homeland Security, and it is pushing for at least 10 percent.

The plan is for two turbines, each about 300 feet high. In comparison, the loran radio navigation tower in nearby Diamond Beach is 630 feet high and the Rescue 21 tower here at the base is 376 feet. The turbines would not be on the oceanfront but would be built inside the the base at two sites that have been tentatively selected. Avian expert Dr. Paul Kerlinger has been hired to study the potential impact on birds, but early concerns about such impacts at a wind farm outside Atlantic City have not proven true.

The project would need to conform to the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which governs environmental impacts on federal property, and get a state Coastal Area Facility Review Act , or CAFRA, permit. Construction could begin as early as next year. The Coast Guard is also looking into solar panels.

Dan Ingold, who works for Noresco, which is under contract to deliver the project for the Coast Guard, said the turbines could be on line by fall 2009 or spring 2010. He said all studies would be shared with the city, which is exploring the idea of a turbine to run the desalination plant.

Bandrowsky said Noresco, which is based in Massachusetts, installs the turbines and makes money off the energy savings.

“They get paid as it operates,” Bandrowsky said, adding: “Renewable energy is strongly supported by headquarters. We want to decrease dependency on fossil fuels and overseas energy.”

Ingold said Noresco can also operate and maintain the turbines, or Coast Guard personnel can be trained to do this. The turbines will be the property of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The main concern of turbines in this area has been that it is also an internationally important site for migrating birds. Ker said the Coast Guard is very sensitive to such issues.

Turbines have also come under attack in some areas for aesthetic reasons, but Ker noted this has not been a problem with the Atlantic City turbines. He said people actually enjoy watching them turn.

“There are a lot of concerns. At some point in time, there will probably be a public meeting on this. We want this whole process to be as transparent as possible,” Ker said.

A dirigible hangar at the base used to be a key navigational landmark for boaters. After it was demolished, many used the Christian Admiral Hotel before its demolition. Ker said the turbines may fill this need, especially for small boaters.

By Richard Degener
Staff Writer

The Press of Atlantic City

17 May 2008

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

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