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Expert says wind turbines can harm LBI economy

Beach Haven resident Bob Stern has taken a keen interest in Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind’s proposal to construct a wind farm off the coast of Long Beach Island and parts south to Atlantic City. And he’s not approaching it as a layman.

An aeronautical engineer, Stern worked for the U.S. Department of Energy in a capacity where he reviewed environmental impact statements on a host of projects.

Although he had never reviewed any wind energy proposals, he sees this as having myriad issues that should involve much input from local officials. But during a presentation at the Feb. 8 Beach Haven Borough Council meeting, Stern focused on the potential adverse affect on the Island economy.

Atlantic Shores is looking to build a wind farm on a lease with the U.S. Department of the Interior. The closest western, or in-shore, boundary of the lease is 10 miles from Barnegat Light and 9 miles from Holgate. The lease area has the potential to generate 3 gigawatts of offshore wind energy. Atlantic Shores plans to start onshore construction of substations in 2024 and offshore construction by 2025.

Stern said while the number of turbines to be constructed has not been determined, he believes it will be several hundred. And he said they could be easily seen from Island beaches.

“One likely possibility would be a 12 megawatt turbine, and they would be 853 feet high, or 2½ football fields,” he said. “The company might want to construct 14 or 16 megawatt turbines, which would require larger turbines.”

Stern said he has seen several surveys along the Eastern Seaboard asking whether vacationers would be bothered by the view of turbines out in the ocean.

“Many of the responses indicated they would find somewhere else to go,” he said. “We’re not the only shore community in New Jersey, so if they don’t like the idea of seeing turbines, they will go to another place, and that could hurt our tourist economy.”

Stern said that in the spring, Atlantic Shore will have a hearing before the federal Bureau of Energy Management. Prior to that, he suggested that the Island hold what he called “pre-scope” meetings.

“We can get many people involved,” he said. “We can include mayors, business leaders, fishermen, representatives from the (state) Department of Environmental Protection and other interested parties. Perhaps we can suggest to Atlantic Shores that the turbines be constructed further out.”

Councilwoman Jaime Baumiller said this proposal is much larger in scope than existing winds farms existing off Atlantic City and Block Island, R.I.

“Those only have five turbines each,” she said. “This could occupy the whole offshore area here.”

Mayor Colleen Lambert said the size of the turbines is “a great concern.”

“From Ship Bottom you can see the Borgata in Atlantic City, and that’s 25 miles away,” she said. “If these are 10 or so miles offshore, they would be clearly seen.”

Lambert said she has also reached out to Ocean County commissioners as well as elected officials on the state and federal levels.

“We’re not against renewable energy, but we have to find a solution that works for everybody,” she said.