America's Largest Wind Investment Is Located Off The Jersey Shore

  • Sep 23, 2021
  • El Cerrito Patch

"Considering that oil-carrying barges can be seen going up and down the South Jersey coast throughout the year, the rare chance of seeing a turbine on an unusually clear day is minor," she added. "And that needs to be weighed against all the good that these turbines will bring to the area and the environment."

The northern portion, which will begin about 10 miles off Barnegat Light, will be called Atlantic Shores. It will be operated by Shell New Energies US (part of Shell oil company) and EDF Renewables North America. Atlantic Shores expects to be operational by 2027/2028, according to NJ.com.

The southern portion of the wind farm, about 15 miles off Atlantic City, will be called Ocean Wind I and II, and it will be run by Danish company Ørsted. Ørsted said it plans to begin construction in 2022.

Their wind turbines are expected to start running in late 2024, said Maddy Urbish, an Ørsted spokeswoman. The company plans to have more turbines operational by 2028-2029.

Ørsted will also be using the biggest and most powerful wind turbines in the world to date: The diameter of each turbine will be 548 feet and 640 feet tall. To put that in perspective, the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet tall, but only two miles from Jersey City.

Urbish said Ørsted intentionally moved the turbines further away from shore to decrease the chances they are seen from beaches.

"We take seriously any potential impacts on tourism in New Jersey, which is one of the reasons we voluntarily committed to locating turbines at a distance to significantly reduce visibility," she said.

Gov. Murphy wants to make New Jersey the nation's leader in offshore wind

On June 30 of this year, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities awarded a combined 2,658 megawatts of offshore wind capacity to Atlantic Shores and Ocean Wind II, enough to power one million homes in the state. Prior to that, in 2019, the BPU approved the first round, awarding 1,100 megawatts to Ocean Wind I, enough to power 500,000 homes.

Both votes were done as Gov. Phil Murphy advances towards his goal of making New Jersey the nation's leader in offshore wind energy. Murphy has the ultimate goal of offshore wind creating 7,500 megawatts of energy by 2035, enough to power 3.2 million homes in the state with renewable energy.

Gov. Murphy has said he has a goal of achieving 100 percent clean energy for New Jersey by 2050. That means entire use of renewable energy in the state, such as solar and wind, and entirely ending the use of natural gas, coal and other sources.

New Jersey's main electric provider, PSE&G, supports New Jersey's massive expansion in offshore wind. PSEG is a 25 percent owner of Ørsted's Ocean Wind 1.

"Besides nuclear, offshore wind provides New Jersey's greatest opportunity for carbon-free generation because of its long mid-Atlantic coastline," said PSEG in a press release. "The Biden administration also has set ambitious goals for offshore wind development up and down the East Coast. So there is tremendous interest and support in offshore wind."

The state BPU's vote was unanimous in both 2019 and this June. The BPU will vote again 2022 to open a third solicitation for offshore wind of at least 1,200 MW. Solicitations will open every two years until 2028.

The NJBPU is a state agency and regulatory authority that oversees utility services for New Jersey customers. It is run by five commissioners, nominated by the governor. The current Board consists of President Joseph Fiordaliso, nominated by Governor Richard Codey in 2006, re-appointed by Governor Chris Christie, and then by Governor Murphy; Commissioner Mary-Anna Holden, nominated by Christie in 2012 and then by Murphy; Commissioner Dianne Solomon nominated by Christie in 2013 and then by Murphy; Commissioner Upendra J. Chivukula, nominated by Christie in 2014 and then by Murphy; and Commissioner Bob Gordon, nominated by Murphy in 2018.

However, approval of the offshore wind doesn't necessarily mean New Jersey's electricity bills will be cheaper: The average residential electric customer in New Jersey will see their bills increase an estimated $3.49 each month once both Atlantic Shores and Ocean Wind II are fully online in 2029, according to NJ.com.

That's why Commissioner Solomon said she had hoped the offshore wind energy would be cheaper.

"I caution that we should be mindful of the ever-increasing costs of energy in New Jersey," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported her saying as she cast her vote in favor on June 30.

Atlantic Shores is Shell's second entry into U.S. offshore wind. In 2018, Shell also obtained the offshore leasing rights to provide wind energy to Massachusetts.

Ørsted currently runs 26 wind farms globally, including the world's first offshore wind farm in Denmark and the first offshore wind farm in the U.S., currently located off the coast of Rhode Island, the Block Island Wind Farm.

Some concerned about wind turbines' effects on commercial fishing, birds and tourism

However, some residents on the Jersey Shore, most notably on Long Beach Island towns, say they are against the massive wind project.

The borough of Surf City released an official statement against the plan, saying they are worried about the economic impact it will have on recreational boating and commercial fishing.

Surf City officials also said they are worried about the impact the turbines will have on tourism, particularly if they can be seen from the beach. They say the turbines will degrade pristine views of an uncluttered ocean environment; they worry about hazards to boats; and also say there is not enough direct economic benefit to Long Beach Island.

"The closest western, or in-shore, boundary of the lease is 10 miles from Barnegat Light and 9 miles from Holgate," wrote Surf City Councilman Peter Hartney in this April 27 letter to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. "Commercial fishing is currently constrained by quotas and so on, and the financial impression of proposed projects has not been thoroughly studied ... There is a powerful, unexamined impact to the cultural fabric of LBI and the total Jersey Shore as the fishing field."

However, minimal commercial fishing actually occurs in the wind farm area itself, according to Horn from the NJ Sierra Club, although boats do have to move through the wind farm to get to fishing grounds further out in the Atlantic.

"Very little if any commercial fishing occurs in the leased areas for the wind farms," she said. "The large majority of the fishing in these areas is recreational. However, Ørsted has been candid about their policy of allowing all fishing in and around the turbines as long as no attachments are made to the turbines."

She also said that the wind turbines can actually increase fish life and diversity in the waters around them, as the turbines create artificial reefs that attract all kinds of marine life.

"Fishermen in Block Island, Rhode Island (the first off-shore wind farm in the U.S.) have been very supportive of the turbines and have noted the increased fish populations," she said.

This independent article from Energy News found that the Block Island Wind Farm has actually become a very popular fishing area, as the turbines formed an artificial reef.

Ørsted spokeswoman Urbish said the Danish company has had "hundreds" of individual meetings with members of the Jersey Shore fishing community, and "the Ocean Wind 1 team has used this feedback to make tangible changes and adjustments to the design of the project," she said.

For example, she said "after listening to the concerns of the fishing community," Ørsted made changes to the layout of the Ocean Wind I and II and moved the turbines to a grid pattern to make it easier for boats to move through the wind farm.

Atlantic Shores will similarly be aligned in a grid to allow boats to move in between the turbines, said the company.

"The turbines will be aligned in a grid pattern. The east-west and north-south corridors within the wind turbine array were selected to align with the predominant flow of vessel traffic and allows for safe transit throughout the area," said Joris Veldhoven, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind's Commercial & Finance Director and Jennifer Daniels, Development Director.

Ørsted is also partnering with Rutgers University to support an initiative called ECO-PAM, that aims to advance research for detection of the North Atlantic right whale. Ørsted said it will pay "whale watchers" to be on the lookout for whales that unexpectedly approach the wind farm, and said it will "immediately" halt construction if whales are spotted.

Horn predicted whales will benefit from the increased fish that come to the area once the turbines are built.

But what about birds? The Sierra Club says that up to one million birds are killed every year by turbines, but that number is far outpaced by collisions with power lines (25 million), cell phone towers (6.5 million), windows, cats and habitat loss.

Horn of the NJ Sierra Club predicted migrating birds will not be impacted.

"The wind farms will not impact migrating birds. At 15 miles out to sea, the turbines are not along the flight path of migrating birds. These birds fly along the coast," she said. "Additionally, the turbines have the ability to pause operations to allow passing birds on the extremely rare occasion that they would be flying that far out to sea."

The NJ Sierra Club has supported the wind project since 2019.

"Offshore wind projects will help prevent unnecessary dirty fossil fuel plants and pipelines from being built. This is a win for the environment, our economy, and our battle against fossil fuels," said Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

Will the wind turbines be able to withstand powerful Nor'easters, hurricanes and tropical storms that frequently hit New Jersey?

"Fortunately, the wind turbines and structures that will be used for the Atlantic Shores project are designed for harsh conditions, including for hurricanes and nor'easters. When wind speeds rise during storms, wind turbines automatically respond by moving their blades into an idle position," said Veldhoven and Daniels of Atlantic Shores.

"Since late 2019, the Atlantic Shores site has been using buoys to help conduct an analysis of historical storm impacts in the area to characterize the maximum wind and waves the site may see over the project's lifetime," they said. "In the coming months, we'll be using this data to work with wind turbine manufacturers in order to ensure that the turbines will be suitable to resist New Jersey's most severe weather conditions."

Backers of offshore wind say it will create an entirely new, long-term and clean-growth job industry for New Jersey, namely jobs working on wind turbines.

Gov. Murphy said the wind projects are expected to create roughly 7,000 jobs across the state. And these are not just jobs located 15 miles out at sea. Workers will be needed to build the turbines and process the wind energy once it is brought ashore.

One company is opening a "wind port" in Lower Alloways Creek in Salem County, to process the wind energy. Another company is proposing a similar wind processing plant on the Raritan Bay in South Amboy. Read: Former South Amboy Coal Plant May Become Wind Energy Hub (Sept. 21)

These wind ports will process the electricity harnessed offshore and transmit it, using existing PSE&G and JCP&L power lines, to New Jersey homes.

The port of Paulsboro, also in South Jersey, will be a manufacturing facility for monopiles (part of the turbines).

Elected officials in South Jersey say they are thrilled the wind ports will bring jobs to a part of the state that's historically been economically depressed.

"The building of this facility, this wind turbine plant, is a win-win-win for the country, state of New Jersey, Gloucester County and most importantly for the borough of Paulsboro," said Paulsboro Mayor Gary Stevenson. "It will provide many good-paying jobs locally. Local residents who may be presently unemployed, who are maybe renting and barely living on paycheck to paycheck, will be able to make good money and finally be able to buy their own homes and support their local town!"

"The Alloway Wind Port will create good-paying union jobs and help revitalize local economies," said Congressman Donald Norcross (Democrat) at the groundbreaking for the Alloway facility in September. "It will secure America's energy independence while also making our grid more resilient. Tropical Storm Ida tragically underscored just how urgent the need for climate action is. Now this project is going to help save the planet."

Renderings and a visual simulation of the visibility of Ørsted's Ocean Wind 1 project may be found at https://oceanwind.com.