Six offshore wind turbine sites planned off Barnegat Light, drawing large crowds to Toms River
TOMS RIVER — A plan to create wind turbine farms in six areas of ocean off the Jersey Shore brought a crowd of people to the Clarion Hotel and Convention Center on Thursday, where the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management answered questions and concerns.
Federal employees met with more than 100 offshore wind supporters, critics and residents curious about a plan to develop an area of the Atlantic Ocean known as New York Bay.
Combined, the six lease areas cover 488,201 acres and have the capacity to power nearly 2 million homes, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM.
At its closest approach, the easternmost of the project’s six areas is 27 nautical miles (about 31 miles) from Barnegat Light.
Despite their name, energy generated in these New York Bay lease areas could benefit a variety of states, including New Jersey.
“Each individual project (developer) can respond to a request that any country could make for long-term energy purchases,” said Jessica Stromberg, head of BOEM’s Renewable Energy Environmental Branch.
These developers could use these lease areas to supply power to New Jersey, New York, or even regional groups of states, she said. For example, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut signed Memorandum of Understanding in October To bid for offshore wind together in order to reduce costs to taxpayers.
Already, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has awarded offshore renewable wind energy certificates, or ORECs, to two offshore wind developers with leased areas in New York Bay. Attentive Energy Two has submitted a plan to build a 1,342-megawatt project 50 miles east of Barnegat Light. Leading Light Wind has acquired ORECs to build a 2,400-megawatt project about 40 miles east of Atlantic City.
These projects will be located east of another offshore wind project in New Jersey located near shore, the Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Project. Atlantic Shores will be located south of Long Beach Island and will be approximately 9 miles offshore at its closest approach.
Sun angle, humidity, turbine height and cloud cover will affect how visible the wind farms are from the coast, said John McCarty, a landscape architect with BOEM.
“On a hot day, there is that fog (on the water), and I think it would be very difficult to see them,” he said.
On a clear morning, the turbines will be in the shade at sunrise and may appear more prominent than they would in the middle of a foggy, humid afternoon, McCarty said. Against a clear sky near sunset, the white turbines might “pop” against the deep blue of the horizon, he said. Other times, turbines in New York Bay will likely be impossible to distinguish from clouds, he said.
“It’s really fleeting,” McCarty said. “It changes based on weather conditions, your viewing direction… how far away it is (from the wind farm.)”
Earlier this year, BOEM officials announced that the project “Programmatic environmental impact statement“For the six New York Bay lease areas, they were available for the public to review.
“We are concerned about the potential impacts on marine mammals and other marine species,” Stromberg said. “The scope of this programmatic review is to consider mitigation, avoidance and monitoring measures that could be applied to these six projects.”
BOEM officials expect wind turbine developers to submit plans outlining ways to protect marine animals, including stepping up procedures during construction, having independent marine animal monitors on board wind turbine construction ships, and potential exclusion zones, Stromberg said. She said offshore wind developers face “a series of requirements” to protect the ocean environment and its animals.
Public comments will be accepted until February 26 Regarding the draft environmental impact statement, which is more than 1,300 pages with indexes.
Mike Dean, a critic of offshore wind development and a Middletown resident, said less than two months is not enough time for the public to review and evaluate the draft comprehensive impact statement.
“These are transformative projects for our coast and our coastal ecosystems,” he said at Thursday’s BOEM meeting. “The public needs to be aware of what is happening… It is the largest industrialization of the ecosystem in human history.”
Dean was among at least a dozen offshore wind opponents who attended the meeting.
Gus Lofgren, a fourth-generation fisherman, has a vessel called the Lily Rose docked in Pleasant Beach. Lofgren worries that his family’s century-long U.S. fishing legacy has come to an end. He said offshore wind farms could prevent him from accessing more than half of his usual fishing grounds.
Lofgren said wind farms would bring “destruction and extinction of our industry.”
“New York Bay is the most productive fishing area on the East Coast,” he said. “And they’re trying to take that from us. They’re trying to take our heritage.”
Wind turbine regulations could help the fishing community in the long term by creating new habitats that would attract a variety of species, BOEM’s draft environmental document said. However, stuck fishing gear at the bases, noise pollution from construction and changes in fish migration routes could also hurt the commercial fishing industry, according to a draft agency document.
However, BOEM said not building wind farms also hurts the fishing industry; The agency points out that climate change is already changing the environment of the oceans and the fish within them.
Peggy Meadow of Manchester, who chairs the Environmental Justice Task Force at Unitarian Universalist Faith Action New Jerseya social justice advocacy organization run by faith communities, attended the BOEM meeting Thursday to support offshore wind development.
Middaugh said New Jersey needs to move away from fossil fuels that drive climate change and harm people in New Jersey’s vulnerable communities.
She said that offshore wind plays a role in the transition to clean energy.
She said “flooding and heat” are major impacts of climate change being felt across the state, from flooded homes in Manville to fossil fuel air pollution causing damage in northern New Jersey.
“People… work in the fields and on the farms,” she said. “They are literally dying from the heat.”
Amanda Oglesby is an Ocean County native who covers education and the environment. I have worked in journalism for more than a decade. Contact her at @OglesbyAPP, email@example.com or 732-557-5701.
This article originally appeared on the Asbury Park Press: Six offshore wind sites are planned off New Jersey, but support is difficult