Citing a University of North Carolina study, the founder of Vacation Rentals LBI said the economic impact of proposed offshore wind farms to be located off the coast of Long Beach Island would be in the billions and half of all tourism dollars in New Jersey.
Ship Bottom resident Duane Watlington’s comments came during the online June 23 LBI Coalition for Wind Without Impact forum in which more than 200 individuals tuned in to hear speakers discuss environmental, socio-economic and recreational fishing concerns. His business portfolio also includes Vacation Rentals Ocean City, New Jersey, and Vacation Rentals Wildwood. All three businesses connect vacationers with rental homeowners and real estate agencies.
The UNC study found more than half of rental home vacationers would choose to rent elsewhere if wind turbines are visible from the shoreline, according to Watlington’s presentation.
The closest western, or inshore, boundary of the proposed Atlantic Shores 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.
The Jersey Shore is responsible for nearly half of the overall tourism dollars in the state and generated over $22 billion in 2019 alone, according to Watlington.
Based on information from the UNC study, he said, an offshore wind farm would have an economic impact of roughly $12 billion annually.
“If we were to lose 55% of visitors to LBI, that would cost about 330,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in lost tax revenue for the state,” he said. “Beautiful beaches and unobstructed ocean views are the ultimate attraction of the Jersey Shore and generate billions that sustain our residents, communities and state.”
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.
“There’s no question about it, Ocean Wind and the proposed Atlantic Shores projects will have a negative impact on shore rentals and tourism,” Watlington said during his presentation.
He compared putting wind turbines within visible range of Island beaches with erecting them around the entire perimeter of the Grand Canyon.
“No one would allow that,” he said. “Why should we support the installation of several hundred highly visible turbines up and down the entire coast of our beautiful Island?”
The potential economic impact to New Jersey took another hit during a presentation from Boston-based Beacon Hill Institute’s David Turek and William Burke, who presented “The Cost and Economic Impact of New Jersey’s Offshore Wind Initiative.”
Turek said the cost of doing business substantially outweighs any benefits of such a project.
“From 2017 to 2036, the average household ratepayer will pay $431 in higher electricity costs; the average commercial ratepayer will pay an extra $3,054 and the average industrial ratepayer will pay an extra $109,335,” according to the Beacon Hill presentation, which was based on data from different states.
In a letter to the federal Department of Interior, coalition leaders said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s decision to adopt a 17.3-mile turbine exclusion distance from the shore for New York wind energy projects supports the impact of turbines on visibility as a reason to consider Hudson South Call. The decision was largely based on an analysis of the New York Outer Continental Shelf Area.
Hudson South Call is located 30 to 57 miles off the coast, has more wind energy than the current project area and has already been identified by the BOEM as suitable for wind energy development. The federal agency is proceeding with leases there.
“That study simulated the visual impact of 152 6.2 mw turbines from 16 observation points in New York and New Jersey,” according to the coalition’s letter. “The simulation most reflective of the LBI project is from the Jones Beach observation point because the turbine array was parallel to that shore. The closest point of the turbine array to Jones Beach was 15 miles.”
The study ranked the visual impact on a scale from 1 to 6, with 6 being the highest. Six is defined as “dominates the view because the study subject fills most of the field for views in its general direction. Strong contrast in form, line, color, texture, luminance, or motion may contribute to view dominance,” according to the coalition letter.
Shoreline visibility from Jones Beach ranked at the highest end of impact, the coalition noted in its letter.
Beach Haven Mayor Colleen Lambert, who was sworn into office in January, said one of her first correspondences was from Bob Stern, a former director of environmental compliance for the U.S. Department of Energy and a founding member of the coalition. Stern resides in Beach Haven.
“I am concerned. There are still a lot of uncertainties,” she said, noting she had met with Atlantic Shores officials virtually and asked them to meet with the public in a similar manner in February or March, but they declined. “I wonder why they don’t want to meet with the public.”
Lambert also briefly touched on pending state legislation that would fast-track offshore wind energy projects by superseding local governments to control power lines and other components of offshore wind farms.
State Senate Bill 3926, if approved, would give final approval over local land use to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. None of the current BPU members reside full time in a coastal community. Ocean and Monmouth county commissioners have been actively advocating for a Jersey Shore representative since last year.
In opposing the proposed bill, the Ship Bottom Borough Council on June 22 noted the development of offshore wind projects has resulted “in significant and growing concerns throughout New Jersey’s coastal communities due to the potential negative environmental impacts on New Jersey’s most pristine natural resources, as well as the detrimental impact on tourism, recreational and commercial fishing industries and local property values.”
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