United States

New Jersey’s first offshore wind project approved by federal government

(The Center Square) — The Biden administration has approved New Jersey’s first offshore wind project, but the plan faces pushback — and the likelihood of legal challenges — from critics who say it will ruin the state’s storied coastline.

The Atlantic Shores South project, given a green light by the U.S. Department of the Interior last week, calls for installing 200 towering wind turbines less than nine miles off the coast — providing enough electricity to power more than 1 million homes. It’s the ninth offshore wind project approved by President Joe Biden as part of his efforts to aggressively expand the green power industry.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and environmental groups praised the project’s approval, saying it will help reduce the state and nation’s reliance on fossil fuel energy sources.

“Through the responsible development of offshore wind facilities, we can protect our aquatic and coastal resources and the communities who rely upon them while taking bold action to address the climate crisis by reducing emissions from fossil-fuel dependent energy sources,” Shawn LaTourette, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said in a statement.

However, the project faces pushback from the group Save Long Island Beach, which argues that towering turbines off New Jersey’s coastline would hurt marine life, the state’s fishing and tourism industries and the local economy. It is expected to be challenged in court.

“No other country in the world is considering a wind turbine project of this turbine size and number within 9 miles off their coastline,” Bob Stern, the coalition’s president and founder, said in a statement. “The project violates a number of statutes and must be stopped, which is why we are challenging it in court.”

He said the taxpayer-subsidized green energy project will result in “significantly increased” electricity bills statewide and do “virtually nothing” to mitigate sea level rise or climate change.

“It will not reduce future sea level rise at all, only delay whatever is coming by about one week,” Stern said.

Combined with other planned offshore wind projects farther out, it will force East Coast commercial, military, and fishing vessel traffic into a narrow 11-mile-wide corridor, he said, “creating safety concerns for both the vessels and the whales that will try to migrate through that same corridor.”

New Jersey is moving ahead with the project after Danish firm Ørsted pulled the plug on a pair of offshore wind projects in November, citing “significant adverse developments from supply chain challenges, leading to delays in the project schedule, and rising interest rates,” among other factors. The company recently agreed to pay the state $125 million to resolve contractual obligations for not moving forward with the projects.

Despite the demise of the Ocean Wind projects, Murphy pledged to continue pushing for other projects and to make New Jersey a “global leader in offshore wind” by pursuing other offshore wind agreements.

Biden, a Democrat seeking a second term in the White House, is aggressively pursuing plans to add at least 35 gigawatts of offshore wind in the U.S. by 2030, beginning with Vineyard Wind off the southern coast of Massachusetts. He argues the plan will boost the nation’s clean energy industry and create jobs.

New Jersey’s offshore wind project, which still requires other federal and state approvals, could get underway as early as next year, according to the Murphy administration.

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