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Coast Guard scuttles windmill plan

CAPE MAY – The Coast Guard has dropped a plan for two huge wind turbines at the Training Center, after the state Department of Environmental Protection raised concerns about the potential impact on endangered birds.

An environmental study commissioned by the Coast Guard indicated the turbines would have provided three quarters of the electricity for the base, which is the only basic training center for the Coast Guard in the nation. The two proposed turbines would have been on 300-foot towers, with a diameter of 295 feet, according to the study available from the Coast Guard.

The project was announced in 2009, and the plan received a warm response at a public meeting soon after, according to reports from the time. However, historic advocates had concerns about the appearance in the Victorian resort.

But those were not the concerns that scuttled the plan.

According to Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska, the spokesman for the training center, the DEP didn’t shut the project down, either. Instead, the state department wanted more information about the potential impact on migrating birds, and the Coast Guard decided that those studies would have ultimately proved inconclusive.

“We had one of the most renowned avian specialists in Cape May County conducting our study, and helping us out with the project,” said Brzuska. The expert advised that it would likely not be possible to present a conclusive study on the impact. “We decided that it wasn’t a viable option to continue the study.”

According to Brzuska, the three-bladed windmills would not have been very visible from most places in Cape May, although the plans indicate the effective height of the windmills would have been 420 feet.

“We decided to shift our energy savings efforts to other programs that would be more cost effective to implement,” Brzuska said this week.

That included putting high energy natural gas boilers in 26 buildings instead of relying on the single old steam building, which burned number 6 bunker oil. The result was more efficiency, less energy and a greatly reduced environmental impact, Brzuska said.

The energy policy act of 2005 required federal agencies to get five percent of their energy from renewable sources, Brzuska said. The Department of Homeland Security set a goal of 10 percent renewable energy by 2010.

In 2007, the Coast Guard started looking at the windmill option. Brzuska said local constituents were notified when the plan was dropped, but there was no public outreach on it.