Why can’t wind turbines be placed further offshore in NJ?
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — As New Jersey races to grab the leading role in offshore wind energy projects on the U.S. East Coast, a commonly heard criticism is that people don’t want to see the structures on the horizon when they’re at the beach.
On Wednesday, New Jersey energy and environmental regulators addressed those concerns, saying the farther away from the shoreline the turbines go, the more expensive the electricity they generate will be.
During an interview with reporters from several media outlets, the state’s environmental protection commissioner, Shawn LaTourette, said the roughly 15-mile distance from shore envisioned for the state’s early projects is not set in stone.
“The approach is not offshore wind at all costs,” said LaTourette. “We must ensure balance. If that means turbines being arrayed in a different way or at a different distance, then that’s what it means. It is not a fait accompli.”
But Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the state Board of Public Utilities, cautioned that even though his board has the power to require the turbines to be placed farther offshore, cost is an important part of the equation in locating them.
“This energy has to be transmitted back on shore,” he said. “The farther we go out, the more expensive it’s going to be to get that energy onshore. That certainly is a consideration.”
Most of the turbines proposed for the three offshore wind projects approved thus far in New Jersey will be located about 15 miles from the coast, he said.
“They are not going to be visual pollution,” he said. “Probably most people won’t be able to see them.”
In past presentations, government and wind industry officials have said the turbines may or may not be visible from the shoreline, depending in part on weather conditions.
But several shore communities including Ocean City, perhaps the center of opposition to offshore wind projects thus far, say today’s turbines are much larger than those proposed in the past, and much more likely to be seen from shore.
“We don’t believe them when they say they’re all going to be 15 miles offshore,” said Suzanne Hornick, a leader of Protect Our Coast-NJ. “The lease area is closer than that, and we know they will fill up that whole lease area. It could be as close as eight miles.”
The group also cites environmental and financial concerns in opposing the projects.
Thus far, New Jersey has approved three offshore wind energy projects: two by Danish wind developer Orsted, and one by Atlantic Shores.
Those three projects combined aim to provide enough electricity to power over 1.6 million homes. New Jersey has set a goal of generating 100% of its energy from clean sources by 2050, and plans to solicit additional wind energy projects every two years until at least 2028.
The next round of applications should happen in the second half of 2022, BPU officials said.
Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at @WayneParryAC