In his initial discussion with representatives from Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, a company poised to build the second wind farm in the state, in part off the coast of Long Beach Island, Surf City Councilman Peter Hartney raised concerns about its impact to the community, including shoreline visibility.
Atlantic Shores is a 50-50 partnership between Shell New Energies US LLC and EDF Renewables North America. It was formed in December 2018 to co-develop nearly 183,353 acres of leased sea area on the Outer Continental Shelf, located within the New Jersey Wind Energy Area.
Among Hartney’s concern is the view of a wind farm from the beach and for good reason: in New Jersey, beach badge sales are a vital component to funding beach-related expenses, including lifeguards as well as maintaining beaches year ’round. Sometimes, badge sales foot the entirety of the beach bill for Jersey Shore municipalities and sometimes, they don’t. What isn’t covered by badge sales comes from the municipal budget.
This year, despite the pandemic, Surf City beach badge checkers hit record numbers, with eight of them selling more than 850 daily badges. Five of those sold more than 1,000 daily badges, helping the borough’s badge sales top 2019 by $127,346. Overall badge sales hover just north of $773,180 for the summer, according to Hartney.
Just because summer is over doesn’t mean badges sales are final. Instead, the borough is also already selling its annual holiday beach badges, with 100 of them being sold as of Nov. 10. When the remaining 650 are sold, that’s the end of the 2020 beach badge sales, according to Hartney.
Still, the borough has additional beach-related expenses this year and it’s unclear whether the final tally of badge sales revenue will cover all beach-related expenses. During its Nov. 11 meeting, the borough council unanimously approved spending more than $55,000 on a dump truck for beach work. They also approved the purchase of a more than $18,000 John Deere Gator to enhance beach accessibility to individuals who are challenged to do so on their own. A Gator program already exists in Long Beach Township.
Those ticket items are funded by badge sales revenue. An offshore wind farm visible from the beaches could prove detrimental to badge sales, if beachgoers are turned off by the view and go elsewhere, Hartney said.
“No one wants to look out and see turbines,” he said in a subsequent discussion about the project.
On its FAQs page, Atlantic Shores concedes “Under certain visibility and weather conditions, it is likely that the turbines could be seen on the horizon,” but stresses, “Shoreline views are something that Atlantic Shores is carefully taking into consideration during our current planning process.”
The exact number of turbines and the exact location is not yet known, but Atlantic Shores is expected to be built about 10 to 20 miles off the coast in about 60 to 100 feet of water depth, according to the presentation heard by Hartney and Borough Clerk Christine Hannemann.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management area is capable of delivering up to 2.5 gigawatts of offshore wind projects and is designed to support a portfolio of projects, according to the presentation. The offshore wind farm is expected to start delivering power in the mid-2020s.
There’s work to be done before the project reaches the point of power generation. It has reached some milestones in 2020, investing more than $60 million with supply chain partners as more than 85 American personnel and three U.S.-flagged vessels are tied into the geophysical and geotechnical campaign this year, according to the presentation.
Already this year, Atlantic Shores has collaborated with the Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership and the Rutgers University Marine Field Station to install a wind light detection and ranging (LiDAR) system. The system, which is owned and operated in full by Atlantic Shores, “will provide observations of wind profiles up to several hundred feet in a location directly on the land/sea boundary,” according to a report on the website of the Newsroom, a product of the state university’s Office of Communications and Marketing for its New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. It is located adjacent to Great Bay Boulevard, the route to the marine field station near Tuckerton.
“The LiDAR will be in place for the next several years, collecting real-time weather observations that contribute to ongoing research, monitoring modeling and data synthesis efforts of both Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind and Rutgers,” the Rutgers University report reads. “This information will contribute to Rutgers’ research on sea breezes and coastal storms, as well as future research initiatives conducted by RUCOOL and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind.”
Atlantic Shore expects to file its construction and operations plan in the first quarter of 2021, according to its presentation. Onshore construction is expected to begin in 2023, Hartney told his peers during the Nov. 11 council meeting.
“It was a preliminary meeting,” he said. “The discussion will be ongoing.”
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