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Go slow with wind

A March 29 article in the New York Times speaks to the Biden administration’s promotion of offshore wind energy: “The Biden Administration makes a swath of ocean between New York and New Jersey an offshore wind zone.” Yet, no one has asked the people who live in New York and New Jersey and elsewhere in coastal communities, who will be impacted by the development of 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030, what they think.

No one has evaluated the specific impacts of these massive wind projects on local community character and well-being, or visual, environmental, social and economic impacts. Moreover, science and engineering don’t support offshore wind as the most efficient or least costly means of renewable electric power generation. We are being told that the projects are necessary to prevent climate change and will create thousands of jobs. There are better alternatives available using carbon-free fuels and use of biomass to create energy.

The U.S. is currently energy independent due to the abundance and use of natural gas to produce electricity. Increased natural gas use, replacing coal and oil, has led to lower greenhouse gas emissions sooner and greater than anyone anticipated. In fact, the U.S. is producing less greenhouse gas emissions now than it was in the 1990s, the usual baseline for such comparisons.

If one is still concerned about the carbon emissions from natural gas, one promising alternative for gas fuels is hydrogen, a fuel without carbon. It is versatile and we don’t need to create a totally new infrastructure for its use. In addition, low carbon or carbonless synthetic fuels are under development.

We should not risk such a mammoth investment in offshore wind energy without further understanding its consequences. In 2006 a blue ribbon panel for the New Jersey governor studied offshore wind energy and compared it to energy production from fossil, nuclear and renewable fuels as a means of meeting the state’s long-term energy needs. Its final report recommended to the Board of Public Utilities that it proceed with a “limited test project, not to exceed 350 MW to obtain practical knowledge of benefits and impacts resulting from offshore wind turbine facilities.” To date, that test project has not been constructed, nor, for that matter, has any offshore wind project been constructed in New Jersey.

Why is President Biden moving with such massive projects, so quickly, before offshore wind can be tested at a smaller scale? Why is Gov. Murphy hell bent on offshore wind as the cornerstone of his renewable energy plan? Are we guinea pigs to ideology?

In regard to the jobs that are reported to be produced by offshore wind, consider the following. Recognize that manufacture of the wind turbines is done overseas, not in the U.S. Support facilities would be required in the U.S., but mainly for the construction period only, not for long-term operations. Further, long-term operations and maintenance would be highly automated in the future to reduce costs, thereby limiting the number of long-term jobs and need for support facilities. One day in the not too distant future you will see a robot climbing and maintaining that offshore tower and turbine.

What do we stand to lose by this massive investment that is too big and too fast? Visual impacts will forever change the unobstructed views from the beach, changing the character of Jersey Shore communities from tourist-based, pristine areas to industrial energy facilities. A loss of associated tourism would mean a loss of mom and pop businesses that support the tourist industry. Why are we putting at risk the multibillion dollar Jersey Shore tourist industry, commercial and recreational fishing, migrating birds, fish and mammals, and the character, well-being and soul of our communities?

In the end, we may lose more tourist-based local jobs than President Biden and Gov. Murphy claim will be generated by the development of offshore wind. Property values would also be at risk.

We need to go slowly, and build a test facility (no greater than 350 MW) to obtain practical knowledge of benefits and impacts resulting from offshore wind turbine facilities. Let’s not forfeit what we have for an uncertain future before we know for sure what we are doing. And, when and if we do it, let’s do it without visual impact and environmental harm as part of a diverse formula for energy generation.

Jim Binder

Surf City