SEA GIRT – The 325-foot-tall wind turbine planned for the New Jersey National Guard Training Camp is generating controversy in nearby communities, and state Department of Environmental Protection rules could threaten the federally funded project.
The DEP’s Large Scale Wind Turbine Siting Map Report, released in 2009, designates the beaches that front Sea Girt, Manasquan and the training camp as areas where turbines taller than 200 feet are “unacceptable due to the operational impacts of the turbines on birds and bats.”
The report says a turbine must be set back at least 1,312 feet from the nesting sites of endangered piping plovers, which regularly nest on the training camp’s beaches.
But DEP spokesman Larry Raganese said the 2009 report does not preclude the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, which is in charge of the project at the training camp, from applying for permits to build a turbine.
“It’s a difficult area to place a turbine, but they have every right to apply for it and every right to ask us to consider their application if they do come to us,” Raganese said. “The ball’s in their court. If they want to come forward, they can.”
Raganese said he could not say what specific mitigating factors might make the DEP allow a large-scale turbine on a site it already has said should be protected.
“At this point, we can’t speculate on what could be allowed or what might be allowed because we don’t have their application,” he said.
Patrick L. Daugherty, spokesman for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said his department was aware of the DEP report when it began planning for the turbine project, but is conducting its own independent studies on wind and wildlife, which will be completed next spring.
The studies, which measure the force of the wind in the area and the number and frequency of bird and bat flyovers, are “totally unbiased,” Daugherty said. “We’ll collect the data, and it will be assessed by the authorities. We’re doing this project by the numbers, and we’re not rushing it.”
The department intends for the 1.5-megawatt turbine to power the training camp, making it energy independent.
The turbine was originally thought to be more than 400 feet tall, but Daugherty said the structure would top out at 325 feet, including the rotor blade.
The project is expected to cost about $5 million and will be paid for by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Daugherty said the wind study – which will reveal whether a turbine would be appropriately efficient at the site – is being conducted by Rowan University and will cost $50,000. It is being paid for with money from solar energy credits earned through solar panels installed at Fort Dix, he said.
A private company contracted by the Army Corps of Engineers is conducting the bird and bat study, which will ultimately cost approximately $700,000, Daugherty said. That money is coming from the federal National Guard Bureau, which is part of the Department of Defense.
Meanwhile, officials in Manasquan have joined their counterparts in Sea Girt in opposing the project.
On Monday, the Manasquan Borough Council passed a resolution stating its members feel the proposed turbine would be too close to homes, schools and other buildings, Manasquan Mayor George Dempsey said.
Sea Girt passed a similar resolution last week.
“We have our Little League fields down there,” Dempsey said, “and we have houses right there. It’s not the place for it.”
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