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Ocean City Council goes full NIMBY on wind project

Ocean City Council was unanimous in opposing Ørsted’s Ocean Wind offshore wind turbine project after a representative made a presentation Thursday night. No formal action was taken, but the seven members were clear on opposing the wind farm in the island’s back yard, saying they don’t want the 99 800-foot-plus-tall wind turbines dotting the horizon 15 miles offshore, possibly harming the island’s tourism industry.

Members believe Ørsted offshore farm would harm resort’s tourism

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City Council was unanimous in opposing Ørsted’s Ocean Wind offshore wind turbine project after a representative made a presentation Thursday night.

No formal action was taken, but the seven members were clear on opposing the wind farm in the island’s back yard, saying they don’t want the 99 800-foot-plus-tall wind turbines dotting the horizon 15 miles offshore, possibly harming the island’s tourism industry.

First Ward Councilman Michael DeVlieger was the tip of the spear for council, peppering Ørsted’s Kris Ohleth with questions before going off on a lengthy soliloquy against the project. Most council members simply agreed with his position rather than offer substantial comments of their own.

Ocean City government’s role in the project is minor and it is far from clear its opposition would have any substantial impact. The wind farm project, estimated to cost about $1.6 billion, has been in the works for years but is still two years and a lengthy permitting process away from fruition.

Ørsted has secured a lease from the federal government for the sprawling site due east of a section of the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Members believe Ørsted offshore farm would harm resort’s tourism

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City Council was unanimous in opposing Ørsted’s Ocean Wind offshore wind turbine project after a representative made a presentation Thursday night.

No formal action was taken, but the seven members were clear on opposing the wind farm in the island’s back yard, saying they don’t want the 99 800-foot-plus-tall wind turbines dotting the horizon 15 miles offshore, possibly harming the island’s tourism industry.

First Ward Councilman Michael DeVlieger was the tip of the spear for council, peppering Ørsted’s Kris Ohleth with questions before going off on a lengthy soliloquy against the project. Most council members simply agreed with his position rather than offer substantial comments of their own.

Ocean City government’s role in the project is minor and it is far from clear its opposition would have any substantial impact. The wind farm project, estimated to cost about $1.6 billion, has been in the works for years but is still two years and a lengthy permitting process away from fruition.  

Ørsted has secured a lease from the federal government for the sprawling site due east of a section of the southern New Jersey coast from Atlantic City to Stone Harbor. Although miles out into the Atlantic Ocean, the turbines would be visible along this part of the coast — the main point of contention for council members.

Ørsted is considering three routes for power transmission to bring the electricity from the wind farm to shore but plans to use only two. One route is to a substation in Atlantic City, another to the Oyster Creek Generating Station in Ocean County and the third is through Ocean City to the now-defunct B.L. England generating plant in the Beesleys Point section of Upper Township.

The third is the point of contention.

Ørsted would bring the power transmission cables to shore under the beach, but they would then run beneath Ninth Street, 14th Street or 35th Street (the preferred route) across the island and then over to the plant in Upper Township.

The Denmark-based company that operates 26 wind farms around the world with 1,500 turbines spinning, according to Ohleth, needs Ocean City Council to approve an ordinance allowing it to bury the power cables in the street, a public right of way. Utilities have that right, but Ørsted is not a utility.

Ohleth, the company’s stakeholder engagement manager, said Ocean City would play “a key role” in the project if it is chosen as a route for interconnection between the wind farm and B.L. England. She said the company has been spending more than a year talking with government officials and stakeholders about the project.  

“We appreciate the warm welcome we have been getting and the super-progressive attitudes in bringing clean energy to New Jersey,” she said.

The reception from City Council was decidedly not warm nor progressive.

In addition to the ordinance about the right of way, Ohleth said the company also wanted to work with the city on Green Acres applications.

DeVlieger pressed Ohleth on the number of jobs and the financial impact of the project.

There are 69 jobs that would be created for the 25-year lifespan of the project, mostly technical with some support staff, Ohleth said. The people who got the jobs would have to spend 12 to 18 months in Europe training at one of the company’s existing wind farms and would have to have “a bit of a thrill-seeking edge” because they would be climbing the 853-foot-tall towers to reach the turbines.

DeVlieger said he did not see local people getting those jobs.

When he asked if there would be any financial savings to local residents, Ohleth said there would not be.

All New Jersey ratepayers would have to spend an extra $1.46 per month for 20 years on their utility bill to pay for the project, which is being done to meet the state’s green energy goal by 2035.

Although in her presentation she said there were ecotourism benefits, mostly for the fishing industry, she couldn’t put a value on that. She also could not answer questions about the cost of the lease with the federal government or the overall cost of the project.

Answering another councilman’s questions, she said there are multiple reasons why this section of New Jersey was chosen for the wind farm.

“The lease area we’ve been designated has one of the least amount of activities in it,” she said, such as commercial fishing. That is “coupled with the great offshore windspeed that are kind of ubiquitous along the entire New Jersey coast, and the gently sloping shelf that allows us to quite readily fix bottom structures because it’s not too deep and it’s not too rocky, coupled again with the lack of users in the state, really make it a perfect place for offshore wind.”

Picking up on the cost of the project and the ubiquitous windspeed, DeVlieger said the “folks who voted this through were largely north Jersey voters but they put the wind farm in south Jersey where we have a highly sensitive and highly profitable tourism base. We’re talking about a project costing over a billion dollars, and that’s probably very conservative, but we’ll see. There’s no saving to the folks that are going to be looking at these things, the lives that will be interrupted.

“Most of those jobs aren’t going to go to people who live in the neighborhood. How many Ocean City-ers are going to climb windmill towers? I sincerely doubt a good effect on our jobs.

“The simple fact of the matter is that it’s risky. The people who’ve come here for a hundred years, how do we know if they’re going want to look at windmills versus something else? Why should we, as a community, take that risk? I see no reason why,” DeVlieger said.

“I want green energy, but I do not want to mess with a formula that has worked here for 100 years,” he added.

“As a representative of my people in my ward, I want answers before we let this thing go through. And if we have to fight it at every level, I want to fight it,” he said.

DeVlieger added he was unconvinced “there is a benefit to us ripping our island up to run these lines through to go to this power plant” and that of Green Acres projects he wants, Ocean Wind is not one of them.

Council members Jody Levchuk, Tomaso Rotondi, Keith Hartzell and Pete Madden said they agreed with DeVlieger’s comments.

Councilwoman Karen Bergman added, “We didn’t vote for this down here. They voted for it in north Jersey. To do all this disruption for only 25 years doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not personally interested in it.”

Asked by Council President Bobby Barr what would happen if council did not approve an ordinance allowing the right of way for the underground power cables, Ohleth said, “We would continue to do what we do at Orsted, which is build wind farms. We had a lot of challenges building the first 26 (wind farms). We’ll continue to figure out ways to make the project work.”

When DeVlieger asked if Ørsted would just put the lines through the inlet rather than over the island, Ohleth said she was not sure because the company is studying environmental and technical data to understand what is feasible in Ocean City.

Barr criticized Ohleth for not having all the answers to the questions posed and said there shouldn’t be another virtual meeting about the project, that the next one should be in-person. Ohleth responded that she believed virtual forums were better than none and that federal and state entities would be initiating virtual meetings.

She said anyone with concerns or questions can contact her by email at krioh@orsted.com or by phone at (201) 850-3690.

City solicitor Dorothy McCrosson told council members the city has had Ørsted’s proposed ordinance for a couple of months “but the mayor wasn’t sure we had sufficient information to properly consider the ordinance. It hasn’t hit an agenda because we believe the whole issue needs more vetting.”

McCrosson pointed out the ordinance does not affect whether the wind turbines are constructed, only whether the city would give access to its public right of ways for the power lines.

“Whether the project is constructed,” she said, “is beyond the city’s authority.”

Two more years

Ørsted has submitted a construction and operations plan to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Ohleth said. The plan is to have a wind farm with an 1,100-megawatt capacity — the ability to power 500,000 New Jersey homes — operational in 2024.

When the BOEM determines that plan is “sufficient and complete,” it would publish a notice of intent and that starts a two-year clock. That includes a 30-day public scoping period, 12 months for drafting an environmental impact statement (EIS) and another 45-day comment period before the final EIS statement is written over six months.

Then there is a record of decision on the construction and operations plan.

She said the BOEM also will be working with a raft of other federal agencies that handle various jurisdictions, such as the Environmental Protection Agency overseeing air emissions; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, activities within U.S. waters; Federal Aviation Administration, navigable airspace; U.S. Coast Guard, navigable waterways; National Marine Fisheries Service, fisheries, marine mammals, endangered species; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, federally listed species and migratory birds; and the U.S. Department of Defense, military operations.

There also is a litany of permits required through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The project’s lifespan is 25 years. After it is over, Ørsted would remove the turbines and restore the area to its previous condition.


Source: https://ocnjsentinel.com/20...

DEC 9 2020
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