May 27, 2021
New Jersey

Atlantic Shores addresses concerns as BPU offshore wind decision nears

By Gina G. Scala | The SandPaper | May 26, 2021 |

At some point next month, the N.J. Bureau of Public Utilities is expected to make an announcement on granting approval for a second wind farm off the coast. In the meantime, opposition for the proposal that would be built off Long Beach Island continues to mount, as does the company’s position that its project is good for the economy, the environment and the community.

Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind is poised to build that second wind farm. 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.

“Atlantic Shores leads with science, and we are proud of having a proposed project that will bring tremendous value and opportunity to these communities in addition to green energy, including workforce training and well-paid jobs and investments in the state’s leading academic institutions, community organizations and environmental protection organizations,” said Jennifer Daniels, development director at Atlantic Shores.

Her comments came a week after Surf City’s official opposition to the project was made public. It was penned by Councilman Peter Hartney, who cited socio-economic/cultural, environmental, and safety concerns in his April 27 missive to the Bureau of Ocean Management.

“We understand the importance of the commercial and recreational fishing communities to New Jersey’s economy and culture. That’s why we have proactively worked to engage these communities to answer their questions and hear their feedback and input through public forums and our fishery liaison Capt. Kevin Wark and fisheries representative Capt. Adam Nowalsky,” Daniels said in a May 25 email refuting Hartney’s concerns. “We will continue to engage fishing communities as our project advances.”

Protection of ocean resources and co-existing with offshore wind and ocean users is a top priority for Atlantic Shores, she added.

“We recognize the many and different uses of the water in and around the Lease Area by various stakeholders,” Daniels said, noting Atlantic Shores will continue to engage with each stakeholder “to listen and to learn about concerns and how we can work together to co-exist.”

As a result, fishing will not be blocked in the lease area or around the wind turbines once the wind farm is constructed, she said.

“To ensure safety of mariners and the Atlantic Shores team, there could be temporary exceptions to this during the construction phase. We will work closely with mariner and fishing communities at the appropriate times if temporary exceptions are necessary,” Daniels added, reiterating Atlantic Shores has a close working relationship with the fishing community, leading academic institutions and environmental groups to study and better understand any potential effects on habitats and migration patterns of commercially and recreationally important fish and shellfish, such as surf clams, as well as marine mammals, sea turtles and birds, such as the red knot.

Studies, both governmental and academic, in the United States and Europe found reef effects occur on offshore wind platforms, increasing the abundance, distribution and diversity of fish species while enhancing ocean habits and fish communities.

“In fact, we hope that the recreational fishing community will benefit from the turbine structures in our project area,” Daniels said.

To that end, she said, Atlantic Shores acknowledges the community concerns relating to electromagnetic fields and marine life.

“All research and monitoring at U.S. and global offshore wind sites show that EMF levels generated are low and do not cause harm to marine life and their navigation, orientation, movement, migration and feeding (foraging, predation) behaviors,” according to Daniels. “The transmission cables for our project are armored and insulated and will be buried six feet below the seabed.”

Ancillary cable protection could be used in areas where existing subsea infrastructures, such as telecommunication cables, already exist, she said. The buried cables will be periodically monitored through the life of the wind farm, she added.

In addressing Hartney’s concern about aging turbines and decommissioning, Daniels said plans for the 2050s and beyond are aimed for a zero-waste goal that maximizes the scope of offshore wind component removal in both federal and state waters, “providing for cost efficient disposal and recycling of applicable materials, including environmental measures to protect marine mammals during decommissioning operations,” she said.

Much like the decommissioning of nuclear power plants, funds are set aside at the start of the project for the purpose of dismantling it. Both the federal permit and the BPU require funding earmarked specifically for decommissioning, according to Daniels.

Lastly, Daniels addressed Hartney’s safety concerns in which he questioned the ability of the Coast Guard to carry out a rescue in the area of a wind farm.

“Atlantic Shores is working with the U.S. Coast Guard to explore ways we can collaborate to make any search and rescue efforts that occur without our Lease Area both efficient and effective,” she said. “Our goal is to, in fact, enhance safety for all mariners including our own marine workers within the wind farm.”

One of the areas Atlantic Shores is exploring with the Coast Guard is the integration of cutting-edge technologies on the turbines, such as very high frequency direction finding and high-resolution infrared detection systems that provide the exact location of vessels and/or individuals in distress, Daniels added.

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