LONG BRANCH – Offshore windmills may be the future of energy here, but they’re presently a source of agitation to commercial fishermen.
A vocal group of them, who aren’t necessarily opposed to windmills but just the placement of them on or near fishing grounds, which if you ask them is anywhere the water is salt, gave the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management their two cents at a public meeting Thursday.
BOEM oversees offshore wind for the U.S. Department of Interior,
“All of these areas are prime scallop grounds. We’re not going to take any of this lying down,” said Arthur Osche, a member of the Point Pleasant Fishermen’s Dock Co-operative.
Osche was referring to fishing grounds in Hudson North and Hudson South, two designated wind farm lease sites that start about 17 miles east of the coastline here.
The two sites are grouped into the New York Bight Call Area, which also contains two lease sites off the Long Island. The four sites total 2,047 square nautical miles, which is equivalent 2,710 square miles on land.
Scallops are New Jersey’s most valuable seafood commodity. In 2016, the commercial scallop harvest raked brought in $123 million, according to National Marine Fisheries Service data.
Fellow co-operative dock member Jim Lovgren said if their access to the grounds is restricted then they should be paid for the economic loss.
“Mark off the area and then compensate us,” said Lovgren.
U.S. commercial fishermen can be compensated for property and economic loss due to energy development on the outer continental shelf through the Fishermen’s Contingency Fund.
In January, Gov. Phil Murphy’s ordered the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to deliver 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. That amount of clean, renewable energy would be enough to power 1.5 million homes.
Murphy’s more ambitious goal is to have all of New Jersey’s energy produced by clean fuel sources by 2050.
BOEM solicited nominations from companies interested in commercial leases within the New York Bight Call Area and public comment in April.
That period is now closed and the agency is in the planning, analysis and site selection process – meaning the agency is narrowing down where the windmills can be placed inside the individual leases.
BOEM has to consider navigational lanes, migrations of marine mammals and fishing grounds.
The agency received nominations from nine qualified offshore energy companies, as well as 132 public comments. 50 percent of the comments came from fishermen.
What would the windmills look like?
No windmills have been selected for the lease sites as of yet. Windmill heights vary from project to project. See how the windmills work in the above video.
As an example, though, the Siemens 6 MW turbine has a blade length of 246 feet and a rotor diameter of 505 feet. If the unit is installed on a 328 to 394-foot tower, the distance from the tip of the blade to the water on a flat calm day would be between 81 and 146 feet.
By law, the blades can be no closer than 65 feet from the water.
The windmills also have to be spaced 10 rotor diameters apart, which would equal about .8 to 1 nautical mile apart for a diameter of 505 feet.
The energy generated from the windmills would be carried to land by underwater cables buried 4 ½ to 6 feet under the ocean floor.
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