Waretown – Ørsted, the Danish company that with Public Service Enterprise Group intends to generate 1,100 megawatts of wind power, enough to supply half a million homes with “green” renewable electricity, held its second informational meeting, in Waretown, Wednesday night. The venue seemed odd since the wind farm is planned for a leased area of the continental shelf, 15 miles off Atlantic City. But then Kris Ohleth, senior stakeholder relations manager for Ørsted, thanked the Holiday Beach Club for hosting the meeting and said, “Once we bring the cable to shore, we are using your parking lot for our staging area.”
Ørsted is considering bringing the submarine cables from an offshore substation to an interconnection facility and then to an existing electrical substation. There are three options it is considering: the substation connected with the decommissioned Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township, the decommissioned B.L. England Generating Station in Upper Township and the Higbee/Ontario substation in Atlantic City.
But Lacey Township Mayor Tom McDonald was more than a little optimistic that the cable would be coming ashore in Waretown, traveling in the existing rights-of-ways (roads, easements) and ending in Lacey. “We have not had an official meeting yet (with Ørsted), but we have had informal discussions,” said McDonald. “I’m positive about it. If the governor is behind the project, it will get done.
“My biggest concern is with the fishermen. Commercial and recreational fishing is a big, big part of our economy down here, and we want them to be thought of first, and everyone gets a chance to be heard.
“But I’m happy it’s coming. We want the employment, the manufacturing to come to Ocean County, particularly in Waretown and Lacey.”
Ohleth’s presentation showed how New Jersey is strategically situated to host a wind power revolution. The northeastern U.S. uses the most electricity of any region, and New Jersey is in the middle of the electricity supply chain.
The continental shelf, a mostly sandy deposit that runs for miles under the Atlantic Ocean, is a relatively shallow area, at most only 100 feet deep – perfect, proponents say, for building wind turbines.
“New Jersey will be the epicenter for a whole new industry with jobs and economic growth,” Ohleth said.
The 1,100-megawatt wind farm, with the moniker of “Ocean Wind,” would be the biggest wind farm Ørsted has built to date. For example, the only existing offshore wind turbine farm in the U.S. is off Block Island in New York and has five turbines. The largest wind farm Ørsted has built is in the United Kingdom and supplies 650 megawatts of electricity.
Ocean Wind would have between 85 and 100 turbines, according to Jens Gravgaard, Ørsted’s senior project development manager. “We have not finalized whether the turbines will be 8 or 13 megawatts. That will determine how many,” he explained.
Ørsted has signed memorandums of understanding with Rutgers, Stockton and Rowan universities to perform research and development for wind energy.
Gravgaard said the company also has an MOU with the South Jersey building trades. “We will pay prevailing wages. We understand and respect that.” Most of the turbines “probably” would be constructed in Europe with some built here, he said. The larger turbines would be brought to the U.S. on ships. The turbine housing, the towers, would be brought in standing upright, but there could be problems with getting them under some bridges. “All that will be worked out,” said Gravgaard.
Ørsted has an ambitious building plan. It hopes to start construction next year and be online by 2024.
Gravgaard said the actual building of the wind farm is not complex. “It takes less than a day to construct the foundation and a day to install the shaft and put the blades on – from vessel to spinning is 24 hours. Then there is commissioning work and testing.”
And Gravgaard assured some fishermen present that the company is working to make the least amount of impact to fisheries. “We’re committed to coexisting with the fishing community, both commercial and recreational. The only impact may be when we are laying cable. The wind farm itself, once built, will be fully accessible to fishermen.”
The amount of land to be used for the farm is only a fraction of the leased area, he said. “The sea floor is mainly sand, and we’ll be adding rocks around the foundation and to anchor the cable so it will be like an artificial reef.”
In the U.K., the company has a policy of compensating lobster fishermen for any loss of gear, he added.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management under the Department of the Interior is the permitting agency for Ørsted. Bureau Environmental Protection Specialist Brian Krevor said Ørsted has received approval for its site assessment plan. This plan describes the activities (installation of meteorological towers and buoys) for the assessment of the wind resources and ocean conditions of its commercial lease area. The bureau will handle the environmental impact statements.
The lease from the federal government was approved two years ago when Ørsted acquired a federal offshore lease on the continental shelf in May 2016 from RES America after that company won the bid two months earlier for lease number OCSA0498. The lease is for 160,480 acres on the continental shelf off Atlantic and Cape May counties. RES purchased it for $880,715 from the BOEM.
The New Jersey Wind Energy Area starts about 7 nautical miles offshore and extends roughly 21 nautical miles seaward.
New Jersey’s offshore wind energy plan started under Gov. Chris Christie when he initiated the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, but it really took off under Gov. Phil Murphy, who instructed the New Jersey Bureau of Public Utilities to create an offshore renewable energy credit system, as required by the act. In June, the BPU chose Ørsted to be the first offshore wind company to receive permission to participate in the OREC system.
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