OCEAN CITY – A Nov. 6 open house, hosted by Ocean City, in conjunction with Ocean Wind representatives, addressed public questions, comments and concerns regarding the proposed offshore wind project.
Attendants entering the Ocean City Music Pier, where the open house was held, were immediately met with opposition to the project, as signs of protest – “Save Our Shoreline” and “Whales and Turbines Don’t Mix” – were on display outside, as well as an inflatable whale pool float and signs seeking signatures on a petition against the project.
The town hall began with a welcome from Meteorologist Dan Skeldon, who moderated the event, followed by a presentation by Pilar Patterson, permit manager for Orsted (the Danish energy company developing the project).
During the presentation, Patterson said the project would cut around 110 million tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during the project’s lifespan, which would be equivalent to taking over 20 million cars off New Jersey’s roads, part of the state’s investment in environmental protection.
One of the project’s goals is “supplying more than 3.2 million New Jersey homes with offshore wind power by 2035,” according to the project’s website.
The wind turbines would be located approximately 15 miles off the state’s southern shores, according to Patterson. The current proposal includes a grid pattern with about 98 turbines. Commercial operations could start by the end of 2024.
“There is an investment of nearly $700 million in New Jersey because of the Ocean Wind project, and we are anticipating creating more than 1,000 direct jobs during the construction period,” Patterson said during the presentation.
The project proposes two points of connection. Cables will run north to the Oyster Creek site, where there used to be a nuclear generating station, and west toward Upper Township, where the decommissioned B.L. England generating station is located.
Regarding the cables running from the turbines, it was said there would be less disruption by travelling through 35th Street, in Ocean City, using trenchless technology at the beach. It would follow Roosevelt Boulevard into Upper Township to North Shore Road. The cables will run about 50 feet under the beach and dunes, and about 6 to 8 feet below the seabed, but may be deeper, if need be, in accordance with a cable burial risk assessment.
Patterson added that no onshore work will be done during tourism season, and instead only during the offseason.
Lighting is required to be on the wind turbines. However, aircraft warning lights are only required when an aircraft is in the vicinity, so the lights would only turn on in that case. It is expected that the lights at the tops of the turbines will amount to being on only a few hours throughout the entire year, due to the small number of flights in that area.
As far as maritime lighting, amber flashing lights are required to be on for navigation purposes. They are required to be visible for 5 nautical miles, so they will not be visible from the shoreline.
The presentation also showed some examples of what the shoreline would look like to the naked eye during the best possible viewing conditions. This was done by using real photographs taken from the shore with computer-generated turbines in their location, to which the turbines could be seen from the shore looking like small, white lines along the horizon.
It was noted there will be little impact on prime fishing areas, and that vessels can take regular patterns; everyone is allowed in the wind farm area after its construction.
An avian assessment found that the project’s location is not within bird-abundant areas.
There is a proposed monopile (the column of which the turbine sits atop) manufacturing facility at the Port of Paulsboro, which is the only monopile manufacturing site in the nation. It is a $250 million investment from Orsted. It will support over 500 full-time jobs, according to the presentation.
The operations and maintenance building will be in Atlantic City, which will provide about 69 full-time positions, as well.
Next, the open house opened to questions from the public, with varying reactions to the project. Some residents gave their full support to the project, while others were against the installation.
One resident said, “You get used to anything.”
“Turbines will show our innovation in New Jersey and the freedom from foreign imports …and I just think we are investing in our grandchildren’s clean energy future, so I thank you,” she added.
Leona Louderback, an Ocean City resident, said, “I am opposed to this project. I see nothing good coming out of it. I see a lot of negatives.”
She added that wind turbines tend to have a high-pitched noise that can be troublesome to people.
“We don’t see the benefit. We only see negatives,” she added.
Panelist Daniel Broderick explained that the blades moving through the air make noise, but would be difficult to hear from the shore, if at all.
Michael Chait, president, Greater Atlantic City Chamber, expressed the project will contribute significantly to the state’s goal of providing clean energy to homes.
“As a renewable energy project, Ocean Wind will help New Jersey reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and produce clean energy,” Chait said, outlining multiple benefits of the project.
He asked the panel about how small businesses can take advantage of the project.
Maddy Urbish, head of government affairs and policy for Orsted, responded that the organization has “many tiers of suppliers and contractors” that they work with. It ranges from general contractors, engineering firms and services, and even personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers and catering services for events.
Vicki Clark, president, Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, expressed the importance of the commercial fishing industry in the area, and that Orsted should talk with them because “no one knows the waters like our fisherman.”
Clark also thanked the panel for making the turbines difficult to see with the naked eye, which is in opposition to other comments made at the town hall. She asked whether the windmills would cause a drop in the tourism industry.
Urbish responded that the organization believes in “coexistence,” and that Orsted and PSEG want to be “good community partners.” She explained that their data has not shown any declining impact on tourism throughout other areas of the world where wind farms were installed.
Former New Jersey Gov. James Florio pointed out how the project will help combat rising sea levels and the salt line.
A question was raised regarding how the turbines will withstand extreme weather, to which the panel explained that the turbines are constructed and built to withstand hurricane-force winds.
Ocean City Councilman Tom Rotondi expressed his disapproval of the project because he does not see how it is possible to work with the towns and surrounding communities, especially regarding tourism. He feels the action the project has taken and the rate at which legislation has been passed has taken away the ability to “defend ourselves.”
He posed the question: What was the thought process in taking away our ability to defend our towns?
Urbish responded that they have not taken anyone’s rights away, and that it is state action. The organization tries to hold information sessions to answer questions and take feedback for use in working with the community.
There were many residents who shared opposing opinions, saying that people flock to the shore for its natural beauty and that the turbines would change the view for the worse.
However, many residents shared that the planet is running out of time, particularly regarding climate change, and that they appreciate the project.
Ben Dziobek, president of Stockton University’s Environmental Club, expressed his feelings of disappointment hearing that people are worried about financial benefits and property values rather than combating climate change.
He explained that the project’s main benefit would be children being able to live and grow up on the barrier islands, and the community not being underwater in the future. He asked the panel if they believed the project would benefit his generation.
Urbish explained that they weigh and take into consideration all possible benefits, and she believes in pushing back against climate change to help future generations.
Some attendants raised concern about marine life impacts. The panel explained that other projects and data have shown evidence of artificial reefs accumulating on the turbines, which creates new habitats for new ecosystems to thrive.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding