Offshore wind development is inevitable for the Atlantic Seaboard. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has begun the process to select from a competitive field of submissions for offshore wind development. This activity has sparked a shocking amount of misinformation circulating to scare off our community from supporting the projects. Moving to 100% clean energy is essential for our future economic development and environmental sustainability.
As an active member of the New Jersey Organizing Project’s Shorekeeper Committee, I have become increasingly involved in environmental issues and have sought to educate myself about the area I call home. My parents built a home on Long Beach Island in 1955, and even though we were a military family, my mother and I spent every summer in that house with my grandmother. In 2016, after 30 years in Kentucky working in thoroughbred racing, education and disaster management, I moved permanently to the Island. For most of my adult life I was a semi-professional photographer, and once on the Island I turned my attention to photography full time. I am currently working on a project to document the people who make up the essence of the Jersey Shore to inform our visitors about who and what keep the heart of the Jersey Shore community beating (pattrotter.com).
Rising sea levels and climate change are a real threat to our lifestyle here on the Jersey Shore, so naturally I am interested in alternative sources of energy and a firm supporter of wind energy. Since tourism is one of the main economic drivers of our region, there has been concern that offshore wind will cause tourism to decrease. I understand why our neighbors may be concerned about offshore wind projects, but I urge everyone to do their own research on the various proposals before jumping to conclusions.
Developers are required to build within a specified lease area, and the state has ensured these leases will be fully built out over the next decade by asking for 7.5 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. These projects also have to adhere to a plethora of environmental regulations and take years to plan and implement. In addition to environmental guardrails, New Jersey has also required use of local labor whenever possible, including a fair share of women- and minority-owned business. That sounds like a lot of jobs in an area folks can feel good about.
Developers have also partnered with various universities to help fund research in climate change, oceanography and engineering. Atlantic Shores, one company that’s hoping to develop an offshore wind project in the state and has the lease area closest to LBI, has also been working with environmental groups, commercial and recreational fishermen, and community groups to address concerns and provide factual information. I have found them to be willing to engage with any interested parties to present their case and engage in a meaningful exchange of information.
Looking at the offshore wind goals from across the mid- and North Atlantic, it is obvious that by 2050, most coastal areas will have wind farms offshore. This means all beaches from Virginia to Massachusetts will be in the same boat. Tourism is not likely to suffer. Block Island, R.I., was the first community in the U.S. to host an offshore wind farm and has seen an increase in tourism since its project was built. Wind farm development has not been found to significantly impact tourism or property values in Europe, where such installations have been in operation since the 1990s.
Finally, let’s talk about turbine sizes since that seems to be a hot issue for some who would oppose the development of offshore wind. As I see it, turbines continue to become more efficient and cheaper every year. That’s a good thing for rate payers, right? We’d want the project to use the latest and greatest technology at competitive prices to keep our electricity bills as low as possible. That also means fewer turbines in our views. The reality is that the 10-megawatt turbines are outdated and will not be commercially available by the time these projects are built (around 2026 and 2027). By then, turbines will be 15 MW and above, which is great for us.
To make New Jersey a national leader in green energy, companies like Atlantic Shores need to use the latest technologies. For all the investment that our state is making in developing offshore wind, these companies should deliver the most advanced technology and the greatest value to our communities.
Lastly, I urge everyone to read the New Jersey Energy Master Plan: Pathway to 2050. The plan does a great job of educating us on why we must reach these ambitious clean energy goals in a short amount of time. I’m sure many other residents of LBI can attest to viewing the effects of climate change every year, if not by the day. I am currently researching installing solar power on my house, and I will be proud to know my house is powered by renewable energy, even if that means I see a turbine or two on the distant horizon.
Pat Trotter lives in Long Beach Township.