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Atlantic Winds offshore wind array will steer clear of LBI for now

Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind’s array of 111 turbines will be built in the southernmost portion of the company’s federal lease, 12 miles off Absecon Inlet, and probably will not be visible to Long Beach Island visitors during the summer tourist season. This was the upshot of a virtual open house held Tuesday, July 13.

The open house consisted of a number of virtual rooms that participants could click on and enter on such subjects as visibility, environment, development and timeline, project design and technology, fishing and navigation. Participants had three chances to hear an entire 20-minute presentation on the topics or jump from room to room to gather what information snippets they could.

Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, a project between EDF Renewables and Shell New Energies, received the ability to develop 1,510 megawatts of electricity from the New Jersey Bureau of Public Utilities on June 30, which brought it one step closer to creating a wind farm on the 183,353 acres of the Continental Shelf it leases from the federal Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The company announced where it will develop the array of wind turbines, and it is far from LBI shores.

The timeline for development started this year when ASOW presented its construction and operations plan to BOEM. BOEM will issue a draft environmental impact statement for public review and comment next year, with the final environmental impact statement and BOEM approval anticipated in 2023. In 2024, Atlantic Shores will begin onshore construction of 13 miles of transmission cables to the existing Cardiff electric substation in Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic County, with routes following roadways and burrowing under wetlands and marshes. Offshore turbine construction should begin in 2025, and ASOW plans to deliver renewable energy to New Jersey residents beginning in 2027.

The turbine array – whose towers and blade wing span will stretch 800 to 900 feet above the water – will be located in a grid pattern and spaced a nautical mile apart from east to west and 0.6 miles from north to south. The development in a grid pattern is to make navigation through the farm easier. There will be three or four offshore substations built, but these will be within the grid pattern and not be a barrier to navigation. There will be temporary impacts to navigation during construction; these will be communicated to mariners through digital charts.

Fishing will be allowed within the wind farm. There may be impacts to the surf clam industry; Rutgers University is doing a baseline study on surf clams and quahogs. Collision impacts to birds seem low, according to studies done in Europe. Studies of the threatened red knot shorebird’s migration are being completed, and results will be sent to BOEM for the environmental impact study. To protect the endangered Atlantic right whale, construction or pile driving of turbine mono-poles will be halted between January and April, when the whales are most frequently seen in the area.

As for visibility from shore, another study done by Rutgers taking into account summer conditions of hot and hazy, moisture-laden air, found that on only one out of every four or five days would the turbines be visible to beaches in Atlantic City.

Another answer to a question posed by a participant on location was that BOEM chose the areas to lease taking into consideration navigation and habitats combined with the state’s need for energy and the threat of climate change to habitats. If the wind farms were located farther offshore, not as much electricity would be available.

According to one speaker from ASOW, New Jersey is seeing climate warming and sea rise faster than the rest of the Northeast. The implementation of the total build-out of its lease would result in the annual decrease of 4 million tons of carbon released into the atmosphere.

The construction and operations plan that is now in the hands of the BOEM will be released to the public in October. More information is available on the Atlantic Shores website, atlanticshoreswind.com.