TRENTON – Harnessing the power of wind might be better for the environment than burning fossil fuels but residents and officials in Union Beach and Sea Girt are questioning the necessity of placing Industrial Wind Turbines (IWT) in populated areas.
In Union Beach the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority (BRSA) has proposed constructing a wind turbine at its Oak Street location to power its sewer treatment plant. The proposed turbine would be 280 feet at center and peak at 380 feet when the turbine blades are at their highest points.
The National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt has plans to construct a wind tower 330 feet high at center and topping out at 406 feet.
Currently in New Jersey there is no legislation restricting the placement of these facilities and no setback requirements.
A study performed in 2000 by Dr. Nina Pierpont, the leading researcher in the field, identified a condition known as Industrial Wind Turbine Syndrome.
Pierpont attributes this syndrome to low frequency and ultra-sonic noise and vibrations as well as shadow and flicker effects produced by IWT’s.
In her study, Pierpont recommends a 1.25-mile setback from residences, schools, hospitals, and businesses. The World Health Organization recommends a 1.5-mile setback.
The Union Beach turbine would stand approximately 1,040 feet from the nearest residence. The proposed turbine in Sea Girt would be built within 1,350 feet of the nearest residence and 975 feet from the nearest residence in neighboring Manasquan.
“What started out as a quote, Sea Girt problem, the more information we got about this thing, the more we realized statewide legislation is necessary,” said Sea Girt resident Gary Cademartori.
Cademartori said he and several other residents are a group of concerned citizens that have “realized this is a statewide problem.”
According to Cademartori through his research he has discovered that the New Jersey legislature intends to construct approximately 130 Industrial Wind Turbines throughout the state within the next decade.
State Senator Sean Kean (R-11) has introduced legislation, with a matching bill in the Assembly, that would require 2,000-foot setbacks for any Industrial Wind Turbine constructed in populated areas.
“My legislation as drafted would create a state law that would prohibit the siting of a windmill within 2,000-feet of a residential structure,” Kean said. “I researched it through our team in Trenton and basically, its kind of wide-open in the U.S. There’s not a lot of laws in the different states but, in Europe there are a lot of guidelines and a lot of them are over 2,000-feet.”
The bill is currently in committee.
When asked about the setbacks recommended by the WHO and Pierpont of 1.5-miles and 1.25-miles, respectively, Kean said that he was unaware of those recommendations.
“That’s news to me, but its welcome news because there’s not a track record out there,” Kean said. “I go through the Office of Legislative Services, which is the non-partisan bill drafting, mostly attorneys, out in Trenton that do all of this stuff and they didn’t get me that information.”
Kean said that his goal is to keep the turbines away from residences and recreational areas.
“All I’m saying is there are places to put these things, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to put them in a residential area,” said Kean.
Kean admitted that instituting a one-mile or further setback would probably effectively shut down any potential wind farms or greatly limit their placement.
Kean said that developers in South Jersey have approached him to reduce the 2,000-foot setback.
Kean cited Governor Chris Christie’s recent bill that would provide millions of dollars in tax incentives for companies to build wind farms offshore.
“There’s a great resource out there offshore,” Kean said. “My position would be to put them offshore.”
Cademartori said that although Kean has introduced the bill requiring 2,000-foot setbacks, Sea Girt residences were seeking a more substantial setback closer to the 1.25-mile setback recommended by Pierpont.
“Frankly, that’s what we wanted,” Cademartori said. “If 2,000 feet serves a purpose, it’s a bare minimum to keep the Union Beach and Sea Girt turbines from moving forward. It might not protect other areas in the state.”
Presently, both projects have been temporarily delayed.
The Union Beach Planning Board denied an application by the BRSA to subdivide its property because the turbine blades would extend beyond its current property line. The Planning board ruled that the BRSA would need a “d” variance.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection recently walked the grounds at the National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt and determined that the construction of the turbine as proposed was inappropriate.
However, the NGTC has yet to submit a formal application.
“We did inform them that the project as proposed did not meet our siting rules because of concerns with birds and bats,” NJDEP spokesperson Larry Ragonese said. “We told them that they can work to try to move the turbine around on site. When they make their application we’ll continue to work with them to try to get through the siting process.”
“Right now our stopgap is the DEP,” Cademartori said. “In their regulations and own assessment they think this thing shouldn’t be built. We think this is a New Jersey problem. It’s so critical that we get people around the state to pester their senators and assemblymen to get this bill passed. We’re going to contact all 566 municipalities, explain this thing to them, and try to get them to pass resolutions.”
“Our push is to get people to write letters and call to force them to get (the bill) out of committee so we can get some votes on it,” Cademartori added.