Long Beach Island residents aired criticisms and concerns about a proposed wind farm off the Atlantic City coast at a scoping meeting held online April 15, as required by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
When the BOEM published its notice of intent to engage in an environmental impact study for Ørsted’s Ocean Wind offshore wind farm, it triggered these so-called scoping meetings in which the public is invited to voice concerns or alternatives to the planned wind farm.
Ørsted, a Danish energy company, is in the process of developing a wind farm to be located 15 miles off Atlantic City on the outer continental shelf that will include 98 turbines on monopoles and generate 1,100 megawatts of wind-generated power, enough to power 500,000 homes.
Ørsted held three online scoping meetings this month and on April 15, Beach Haven Mayor Colleen Lambert and Bob Stern, a representative of the Long Beach Island Coalition for Wind Without Impact, both asked that the Ocean Wind turbines be moved farther out to sea. Lambert asked why the Hudson South call area had been abandoned in favor of a lease much closer to shore when there would be more wind farther out. She expressed concern about the visibility of turbines if they are located nearer to the coast. “The alternative is to impact tourism with a decrease of 40% of revenue if turbines are visible.” She noted that New York has required turbines to be located 17 miles from shore.
Stern said he did not see in any of the information presented what the impact of so many turbines would have on the area and that one study had found that development of offshore wind energy would have “virtually no impact on reducing climate change.” Studies also “fail to mention potential harm to the North Atlantic right whale,” he said.
Rand Pearsall said although most people are in favor of wind power there is no lifetime analysis of the environmental impacts of wind power versus the use of natural gas and nuclear power. “The sight of those wind blades in landfills – are they really environmentally superior?”
Also in the negative column was Kathleen Spaeth, who worried that surf clams and scallops would lose habitat and biomass if the wind farm is built. She also noted that little is known of the migration of horseshoe crabs from the deep ocean to onshore and that they are an important species not only for migrating sea birds like the red knot but also to biomedical firms that harvest blood from the crabs and use it in developing vaccines.
Eric Ediger was concerned with bird kills and burnout oil spills from the turbines.
On the supportive side of the discussion was Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. The project has the broad support of Atlantic County executives and politicians. “Offshore wind is a viable, safe and clean alternative to the burning of fossil fuels such as the B.L. England plant that burned coal and nuclear energy from Oyster Creek. New Jersey along the shore is already seeing sea level rise and it is only going to get worse. This is an investment we need to do. We need offshore wind and it’s a tremendous opportunity for the state of New Jersey to be the national leader.”
Erik Ford, executive director of New Jersey Energy Coalition and past president of the state Board of Public Utilities, said Ørsted in partnership with PSE&G are both fully committed to wind power sustainability and will minimize impacts during construction and operation. “The turbines can withstand wind up to the thousand-year storm. The visual impacts of the turbines 15 miles offshore depending on where and when you are looking will be minuscule.”
He also noted the project would create a thousand construction jobs and 69 full-time jobs in the Atlantic City hub for the next 30 years.
Manuel Amador Jr., an officer with the Heavy and General Construction Laborers Local 472, shared Ford’s positive view.
Kathleen Hayden, a shore resident, was concerned not only with the environmental impacts but with the disruption to everyday life when the substations on land are built and the cables are brought onshore.
Greg Cudnik, owner of Fisherman’s Headquarters in Ship Bottom, said, “I oppose the industrialization of our waters.” He claimed the wind farm, with turbines erected a mile from each other in a grid pattern, could disrupt the dispersal of marine life such as larval fish and be a disruptive influence on the cold pool that lies off the continental shelf in the Mid-Atlantic Bight. The cold pool is a layer of cold water just beneath warm surface water extending to the ocean bottom that forms every spring and lasts until the fall and is a vital part of the life cycle of many marine species.
Studies done on fish life around Block Island, R.I., where there is a five-turbine project, cannot be used as comparison for the sandy bottom off New Jersey, he said. The sand lance, for instance, is a small fish that burrows in sand and is consumed by many important fish species such as flounder and sea bass.
“Wind development is outpacing science and the project must be delayed,” he said. “Cables are another risk to the health of Barnegat Bay. You will be bringing high-voltage cables through the sensitive salt marshes.” There are two proposed landings of cables. The one in the north would be buried under Island Beach State Park and then transverse the bay to Waretown and on to Oyster Creek. The landing in the south would be in Ocean City and continue to the decommissioned B.L. England plant.
The potential risk to sharks from electromagnetic fields caused by the cables was refuted by Ørsted experts, who said the cables would be buried deep enough that they would cause no disruption.
Paul Eidmen, a charter boat captain from North Jersey, said the impacts from climate change outweigh risks in implementing offshore wind power. “We’ve all seen how warming water are pushing our game fish into colder waters farther north. I’m not saying wind turbines are the answer, but stalling the rate of climate change is a good thing, as is powering half a million homes without burning fossil fuels, leading to ocean acidification. I think we can peacefully coexist (with wind turbines).”
In answer to a question on how much oil each turbine uses as a lubricant and the potential for spillage, an industry spokesman said the turbines have a maximum of 40 gallons of oil in the engine and are remotely monitored and serviced if needed. The turbines have 100% leakage-free joints and retention reservoirs that could contain leakage at each turbine generator, he said.
In closing, representatives from BOEM said the draft environmental impact study will take two years to complete and will use all available scientific studies, both existing and in progress. The environmental impact study will then be published in the federal register with opportunities for more public comment before it is adopted.
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