With the state Board of Public Utilities’ anticipated decision on granting approval for a second wind farm off the coast expected next month, Long Beach Island officials met in April with counterparts from Cape May County and state and federal legislators to discuss the negative impacts of offshore wind farms on shore communities.
“The Island, as a whole, is against it. The whole coast is against it,” said Surf City Mayor Francis Hodgson, who hosted the virtual meeting last month. “This is how I look at it: What is LBI going to gain? Nothing. What’s the liability? It might ruin our tourism industry. It might ruin the fishing industry. Why take the chance?”
In addition to Island officials, Congressman Jeff Van Drew, state Sen. Chris Connors and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli were present. Van Drew extended an invitation to the mayor of Ocean City, who sent a representative, and a businessman from Cape May County attended, Hodgson said.
“It (the opposition) has some power behind it,” Hodgson said. “We all agreed this is not the end of it. We’ve got to keep the pressure on.”
Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind is poised to build the second wind farm in the state, in part off the coast of Long Beach Island. The closest western, or in-shore, boundary of the lease site 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. The project 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.
Just south of the proposed Atlantic Shores wind farm is the Ocean Wind project, owned and developed by Ørsted with the support of PSEG. That wind farm is expected to be operational in 2024 and would produce enough electricity to power more than 500,000 homes, according to the Ørsted website.
Barnegat Light Mayor Kirk Larson said overall he is tired of talking about the projects on digital online formats, as hearings have been held during the pandemic.
“They don’t mean anything anyway. I would like to see an in-person meeting,” said Larson, who doesn’t favor the virtual meeting format as the most effective way to discuss the complex topic. “Trying to talk on Zoom is just about useless. You can see faces, but that’s it.”
He added there will be a meeting in Barnegat Light to discuss the Atlantic Shores wind farm at the request of the taxpayers group there. The meeting will be outside at the pavilion on West Sixth Street “so we can all express our opinions.”
Larson’s comments came last month shortly after he read that the Fairways North and Fairways South projects off the south shore of Long Island were eliminated as potential federal lease areas following protests.
“They got rid of the Fairways because the Hamptons didn’t want to see the windmills,” he said. “They don’t want to devalue the Hamptons; they want to be able to see the horizon.”
That announcement came on April 14, during a virtual meeting hosted by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The meeting of the Intergovernmental Renewable Task Forces contained representatives from 14 coastal states, local governments, tribes and federal agencies.
“When you look at Biden’s proposal for infrastructure, he doesn’t put near enough money in there for wind farms,” Larson said. “I’m not against windmills, just don’t ruin my ocean with an experiment and leave us with it. I thought they should have done a pilot project first – give it five years, like they did off Block Island. … A couple of them broke down already. Nobody fixes them. They just sit there, and it’s not working anymore.”
As a fishing fleet owner, Larson said, “I stand behind the Garden State Seafood Association and the Scallopers Survival Fund and those kinds of outfits, and RODA (Responsible Offshore Development Alliance). He was referring to a coalition of fishing industry associations that are concerned about impacts to the commercial seafood industry.
Another critic of wind power, Long Beach Township Mayor Joseph Mancini earlier this month said an offshore wind farm doesn’t make sense economically. He pointed to gas and new nuclear technology – small modular reactors – as more cost effective. He also noted “a much bigger carbon footprint” to build a wind farm versus a small nuclear power reactor.
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