HAZLET – As residents continue to push for a moratorium on a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine planned for Union Beach, officials at the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority (BRSA) are moving ahead with construction.
BRSA officials gave residents a tour of the turbine construction site located in the northern corner of the wastewater treatment plant’s 24-acre property adjacent to the Raritan Bay at a meeting on Sept. 20.
The concrete pile cap foundation is currently being built to support the 380-foot-tall General Electric (GE) turbine, which will include a 262-foot-tall pedestal and 118-footlong blades.
“It [the foundation] is designed to hold twice as much as you’ll ever see of test pressure,” said BRSA Executive Director Robert Fischer during the tour. “It has been pressure-tested to four times below [what] you’ll ever see.”
The authority began conducting test piles for the site last week. During this time, seismographs have been installed on several residential properties upon request, which record ground movements. The recordings will provide data in case changes occur in the environment due to the pile-driving for the turbine foundation.
“It [the test piles] must withstand 30 tons of pressure, so they put 60 tons of pressure on it and it has to maintain its levels for 24 hours for it to pass the test, and it did,” Fischer said.
The wind turbine would produce 3.5 million kilowatt hours of energy a year, about half of BRSA’s 7 million kilowatt need.
The project received federal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 in the amount of $5,775,000 and an additional $600,000 grant from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU).
In addition to the turbine, the funding will also contribute to plant improvements, including odor control and replacement of chemical storage tanks, Fischer explained.
However, despite the construction, residents from the neighborhood and surrounding communities are calling for the construction to halt, as well as for more study about the effects on wildlife, human health and property values.
As of Sept. 20, Union Beach residents Bart and Susan Sutton over a two-week period had collected 300 signatures of people opposed to the erection of the turbine.
The Suttons have also organized a letterwriting campaign to Gov. Chris Christie’s office.
“You [BRSA] have no skin in the game … we do,” Bart Sutton said during the open public portion of the meeting.
Union Beach residents also said that other towns – such as Holmdel, Hazlet and Aberdeen – will “reap the benefits” of lower sewer rates, but will not have to live in the shadow of a turbine.
In response, Fischer said the municipality would receive a financial benefit for having the turbine in town. The BRSA is developing a host benefit fee for Union Beach only, estimating $45,000 to $60,000 of renewable energy credits for the borough once the turbine is operational.
“We are not talking bringing 10, 50 or 100 [turbines],” Fischer said. “I’ve said it out there, and I’ll say it again, I’ve been on record … the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority is not building a second wind turbine. We will never build a second wind turbine. This is it. We found that a wind farm and a wind turbine is vastly different. If you have a wind farm and you’re in a residential neighborhood, cumulative effect of all those blades spinning could create a problem. The cumulative effect of having that type of viewshed could reduce property values. It is a lot different with a single turbine.”
According to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ (BPU) Clean Energy Program, the 2010 state Renewable Energy Incentive Program (REIP) plans to dedicate $4.5 million to small wind projects based on a statewide goal of constructing 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind power, 1,600 megawatts of solar power and 200 megawatts of onshore wind power.
Fred DeSanti, of MC2 Public Affairs, consultant for the BRSA, said that New Jersey has mandated that carbon must be reduced by 20 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050.
Approximately $500,000 in electricity savings can occur per year with the turbine up and running, DeSanti said.
“This is what the 8.8 million people of New Jersey expect to see done if we expect to reduce our carbon footprint,” DeSanti said. “That is why this is being done. There are meetings all over the state … people feel the same way about power lines moving through communities, other kinds of public utilities that exist, and the fact of the matter is, if we are going to reduce the carbon footprint, if we are going to meet global warming requirements, these things have to be built.”
As an attempt to quell concerns from residents, the BRSA distributed a newsletter on Sept. 13 to Union Beach residents, as well as copies of studies at the meeting Sept. 20.
After conducting a property value analysis for ZIP code 07735 (Union Beach and Keyport), the BRSA found that average property values for the area varied over a five-year period. The average home was listed at $250,000 in 2005, $280,000 in 2006, $280,000 in 2007, $240,000 in 2008, $220,000 in 2009 and $230,000 in 2010.
Hazlet resident Bill Shewan suggested that the BRSA commissioners should consider implementing a real property value protection agreement for residents in close proximity to the turbine, as a condition of approving wind energy for the municipality.
The turbine received final approval from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in June. Shortly after, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders unanimously passed a resolution opposing the turbine on July 8, citing health and safety concerns, lack of protection for community roads and infrastructure, and diminished property values. The freeholders have sent a letter to Christie asking for a moratorium on the project pending further study.
“At this point in time, this commission should consider a resolution that they [the DEP] should study this further and they [the state] should put a moratorium on this,” Shewan said. “You have the county seat against it, you have the people in town [against it], and there are other studies. You cherry-pick [studies] and we cherry-pick.”
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