Foundation Talk on Wind Farms Boosts Economic Benefits

opens in a new windowFoundation Talk on Wind Farms Boosts Economic Benefits / The Sandpiper / 5/10/21

An hour-long online “Wind Power Talk” hosted by the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences on April 24 and moderated by Science Committee Chair Rick Bushnell was too short to answer all the questions by the 70-plus participants who joined via Zoom and will result in a couple of more scheduled talks, Bushnell said.

He began by explaining the talk was for information purposes and not to foster a debate, but to foster “a feeling of understanding.”

“In many environmental decisions there are often a series of trade-offs,” said Bushnell.

On tap for the Saturday talk were Doug Zemeckis, Rutgers Cooperative Marine Extension agent; Lisa Campanella, policy analyst from the New Jersey Organizing Project; and Chelsea Pascoe, representative for Ørsted North America. From Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, Public Information Officer Jessica Dealy was joined by Doug Copeland, development manager.

Bushnell was upfront with the fact that his ReClam the Bay organization had received a grant from Ørsted. Zemeckis said offshore wind energy in New Jersey was part of Gov. Murphy’s plan to provide half of all energy from renewable sources by 2030, and that would include enough 12 MW turbines to provide 7,500 MW of energy, or 625 turbines along the Jersey coast. Zemeckis predicted eventually 2,300 offshore turbines would grow along the northeast continental shelf.

The timeline for the two leased areas off New Jersey started in 2015 with a solicitation for leases by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. RES America Developments Inc. purchased the 160,480 acre lease and then almost immediately sold it to Ørsted. U.S. Wind Inc. purchased the 183,353 acre lease and sold it in 2018 to EDF and Shell New Energies, which are developing Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities awarded Ocean Wind the state’s first offshore wind renewable energy certificates award for 1,100 MW in June 2019. Ørsted is competing with Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind (which has proposed an offshore wind farm between Barnegat Light and Atlantic City) for an additional 1,200 to 1,400 MW.

Ørsted’s lease area extends from Atlantic City south to Ocean City. It has completed its site assessment plan and is now in the construction and operations planning phase. Ørsted hopes to begin onshore construction of two substations in 2023 and offshore construction of three substations and 98 turbines in 2024.

The closest western, or in-shore, boundary of the Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind lease is 10 miles from Barnegat Light and 9 miles from Holgate and extends south to Ørsted’s leased area off Atlantic City. The lease area has the potential to generate 3 gigawatts of offshore wind. Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind has not announced the number of turbines it hopes to construct but plans to start onshore construction of substations in 2024 and offshore construction by 2025. Site assessment plan survey work, including geophysical and weather buoy studies, is continuing.

Campanella of the New Jersey Organizing Project said she had done extensive research on the economic impacts of the only existing commercial offshore wind farm in the U.S. – the five-turbine Block Island pilot program off Rhode Island, built and owned by Ørsted – plus the land-based wind farms operating in the Midwest as well as offshore wind farms in Europe. All of them offered an economic boost to the areas in terms of jobs during construction, operation and maintenance and induced impacts when workers’ wages went into local economies.

In Texas, $65 million was generated; in Indiana, $108 million was estimated. Overseas, Wales saw an economic boost of $16 million, she said.

“Massachusetts projects benefits to their business community of $511 million and Maryland, $900 million,” said Campanella.

Some of the companies currently scoping out the Jersey Shore for opportunities related to the wind farms are Marriott, Etna Realty and various construction companies.

“There are real opportunities for local businesses, including more year-round business,” she added.

“Some argue the wind farms will curtail tourism, but my research saw an increase in tourism to Block Island, and in Brighton in the UK, tourism dollars increased from $604,000 to $647,000, and the turbines there are 8 miles off the coast.”

She said curiosity was a big factor in people wanting to tour the wind farms. Her studies of 24 wind farms in nine states found negligible impacts to property values within 10 miles of the farms.

Dealy from Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, said Shell New Energies has 40 years of experience in offshore energy sources (oil and gas) and 15 years in offshore wind resources in other countries, and EDF Renewables has 30 years of experience in renewable energies – mostly land-based solar projects.

As for the leased area off New Jersey, she has been asked why the company can’t use a different lease area rather than one close to LBI. She said the leases are developed and offered by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and have already gone through years of assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and other agencies before the leases are offered using ecological baseline studies. During the next two years, Shell and EDF will complete comprehensive assessments of marine life, and the lease is “funny shaped” because they have already ruled out areas that are important fishery areas. She added that Hudson South and Fairways South and North lease areas have not yet been put up for auction by BOEM.

“New Jersey is a fantastic location. It’s centrally located and has the opportunity to be the hub of the offshore wind industry,” she added.

Copeland, of Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, said the company already invested $40 million in the project in 2020 and expects to invest $30 million in 2021. Five vessels, three from New Jersey, will be doing seabed studies this summer for the site assessment plan and have already collected 12 months of offshore data from a meteocean buoy. Two more buoys will be deployed as the company enters the construction and operations phase of the plan. It hopes to be operational by 2027.

As the hour came to an end with time for only a few questions, Bushnell said some comments in the chat room had suggested it was a one-sided, positive presentation.

“Perhaps we could suggest further talks. Perhaps the chamber of commerce could give a state of the region talk and focus on the tourism or property value issues. LBI is an unusual place – things are different here. Maybe they could explore that. Future discussions could be on fishing and the economics of both sides.”

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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