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Ocean City not relenting in battle against wind farm  

Credit:  Ocean City Not Relenting in Battle Against Wind Farm | By Donald Wittkowski | OCNJ Daily | May 21, 2022 | ocnjdaily.com ~~

Ocean City is not giving up its fight against a proposed offshore wind energy farm seeking state permission to run an underground transmission line through town to connect with the land-based power grid, Mayor Jay Gillian told local residents Saturday.

“We still have a long way to go with this,” Gillian said during a discussion of the project during a public meeting organized by City Council President Bob Barr for residents of his Fourth Ward district.

Barr said he is beginning to sense that the project’s developer, the Danish energy company Orsted, may be growing concerned about the money it will ultimately have to spend to build the wind farm.

“Right now, they’re burning through money like it’s nobody’s business,” Barr said of Orsted. “Eventually, they’re going to have to fish or cut bait on this.”

Barr also said that Orsted does not want to have to spend a lot of time bringing the project online. He suggested that the longer Orsted has to wait, the more it may have second thoughts about developing the project.

Ocean City’s elected officials have been among the most ardent opponents of the wind farm. They fear it would harm tourism, real estate values, the commercial fishing industry, migratory birds and marine life.

They are also worried that the gigantic wind turbines that would pass by Ocean City 15 miles offshore would create a visual blight when viewed from land. Altogether, Orsted has proposed building 99 turbines from Atlantic City to Stone Harbor.

Gov. Phil Murphy and other supporters of the project tout it as a source of green energy and thousands of union construction jobs. Orsted also says it will provide power for more than 500,000 homes.

Gillian said Murphy wants the wind farm to be his “legacy.” However, Gillian believes that the state politicians in Trenton who have joined Murphy in supporting the project are “starting to get a little squirrelly” amid opposition at the local levels of government.

“What they’re trying to do is steamroll this. I think it’s going to backfire on them,” Gillian said.

He added that he is a “little bit more optimistic” that the project may not be built after all, especially if Orsted has to contend with lawsuits and angry taxpayers.

“They have a heavy lift,” Gillian said of Orsted. “They need a lot of work.”

The wind farm is currently in the planning and permitting phase and is scheduled for completion by 2024.

On Feb. 2, Orsted filed a petition with the state Board of Public Utilities to install an underground transmission line through Ocean City to connect the offshore wind turbines to a substation next to the decommissioned B.L. England Generating Station in Upper Township.

“This petition filing seeks to maintain the project’s timeline to meet critical permitting milestones and assure that construction and operations can commence on time, so we can ensure the commitments we made to New Jersey are realized,” the company said in a statement.

Orsted plans to run a transmission cable under the seabed and bring the electricity onshore through the cable at the beach lots of 35th Street. The underground cable would travel west to Bay Avenue, north on Bay Avenue to Roosevelt Boulevard, west across Peck Bay at Roosevelt Boulevard Bridge and then continue on to Route 9 to property near the former B.L. England Generating Station, according to the petition.

Gillian said Orsted has begun “throwing carrots” in Ocean City’s direction in hopes of gaining local support, including offering to pay for millions of dollars of drainage projects and road construction.

Last October, Gillian outlined a series of “potential host community benefits” that he plans to push for in negotiations with Orsted to try to minimize negative economic and environmental impacts on Ocean City from the wind farm. They included:

  • The giant turbines generating the wind power should not be seen from the shoreline, he said. He also said the project can be altered by the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to eliminate the visual impact of the turbines from the beach.
  • The project should not move forward until all concerns of the fishing communities are adequately addressed.
  • The project should not move forward until any potential threats to the environment and the public are addressed.
  • Finally, Orsted should provide Ocean City with an annual impact fee and fund a flood-mitigation project in the area where transmission lines would cross under the island.
  • During Barr’s Fourth Ward meeting, the mayor seemed to take an even tougher stance with the wind farm when residents asked about the possibility of Orsted building a transmission line through Ocean City. About 30 residents were in the audience at the American Legion Post 524 headquarters. First Ward Councilman Terry Crowley Jr. also attended the meeting.

    Gillian said Ocean City will demand that the Governor’s Office send experts from the Board of Public Utilities and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to discuss the possible environmental and health drawbacks of having Orsted’s transmission line running through town.

    “As far as the environmental and health issues go, that’s what we’re going to find out,” he told the residents.

    Barr also called on the state and federal government to release copies of Orsted’s environmental studies to Ocean City before any regulatory decisions are made about the wind farm’s permits.

    “Why shouldn’t we have the ability to see that environmental information?” Barr said.

    Ocean City officials also want to pressure Orsted to consider other routes for the transmission line rather than have it cross over 35th Street. Gillian said Orsted is pushing for 35th Street simply because it would be the “cheapest” route.

    Charlie McCaffery, one homeowner who spoke during the ward meeting, expressed concern that a transmission line running along 35th Street would drive down property values in the surrounding neighborhood. McCaffery, who lives in Winslow, N.J., owns an Ocean City vacation home at 35th Street and Asbury Avenue.

    “People like us have a decision to make if this happens. Do we move?” McCaffery said of the possibility of homeowners selling their houses if a transmission line is built in their neighborhood.

    Source:  Ocean City Not Relenting in Battle Against Wind Farm | By Donald Wittkowski | OCNJ Daily | May 21, 2022 | ocnjdaily.com

    This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

    The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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