Your Turn by Lisa Campanella
Offshore wind in New Jersey is a hot topic these days — and it’s no wonder. New projects are being greenlit and many are concerned, from those that worry our beautiful shorelines may suffer from unsightly turbines to those who worry that if we don’t do something soon, our shorelines will disappear altogether. But which of these concerns hold water?
While offshore wind farms are new to the US, they have existed across the globe for decades — providing communities with clean, renewable energy, and providing solid evidence that wind farms help tourist economies in coastal communities. For example, the 116-turbine Rampion Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Brighton — a popular tourist town in the UK — is just eight miles offshore. Overnight visits to Brighton actually increased after the wind farm was built.
Closer to home, at Block Island off Rhode Island, where turbines are clearly visible, a study published by the University of Rhode Island confirmed that tourism increased the year after the wind farm was built — there was an average 19% increase in occupancy rates.
There’s no reason to think New Jersey will be different. Several surveys — from Global Insight, University of Delaware and the federal Bureau of Energy Management, among others — show that the farther turbines are from shore, the more likely people will continue to vacation at the beaches.
The 2020 University of Delaware concluded that not only would beachgoers be indifferent to offshore wind farms that are over five miles from shore, but also tourists may be interested enough to visit them. That means offshore wind farms in New Jersey could potentially generate millions of ‘curiosity trips,’ and the sightseeing revenue that comes with them.
Wind farms greater than 8 miles from shore have resulted in little negative polling. Generally, the ‘sweet spot’ is for wind farms to be located about 15 miles offshore, where Ørsted’s Ocean Wind project will be. Any economic losses will be washed out by the increase in trips and result in a net positive economic impact.
This is good news. Not only is wind power an economic boon, it also lessens reliance on dirty fossil fuels that worsen the impact of climate change and lead to severe weather events. The increased flooding and damaging storms that New Jerseyans face pose a far greater threat to the Shore than the presence of wind turbines. Offshore wind is a powerful part of the solution. New Jersey must be a leader in using wind properly — with minimal environmental disruption and positive economic results.
The approval process for offshore wind projects is properly rigorous. Developers must comply with stringent federal and state permitting requirements, and work with local officials to get it right because they are investing big bucks. We must make sure they listen to the public’s concerns and that these projects benefit our communities.
Converting to renewable energy is vital. The alternative would be catastrophic. That’s why we support responsibly developed offshore wind in New Jersey.
Elissa Campanella, senior policy analyst for the New Jersey Resource Project
I’ve spent my life loving the state of New Jersey, a place that seems to be the perpetual underdog no matter how many artists, athletes and geniuses we’ve produced and nurtured. No matter where you go in the world, the saltwater taffy is never as sweet as it is from one of our boardwalks. I’ve lived through two financial crises and survived Superstorm Sandy and never dreamed of leaving this paradise the world too often treats as a joke.
But I do worry about the future New Jersey holds for my daughter. Will she be forced to move as rising seas flood parts of our state? Unless we take bold action to reduce reliance on fossil fuels that worsen the danger and destruction climate change is bringing, and unless we embrace clean energy technology like offshore wind power that will boost the economy, opportunities will decrease for future generations.
Through my work with the New Jersey Resource Project, I have talked to people all over South Jersey who share my fears about the world we’re leaving for our kids and grandkids. We know we need solutions such as offshore wind to lower harmful greenhouse emissions. We must be stewards of the beautiful coastline and farmland so many enjoy and get economic benefit from throughout the year.
Because the Jersey Shore is unique and iconic, change can feel threatening. But offshore wind can be implemented safely and responsibly. With community voices coming together to fight for good-paying jobs, cabling plans that prioritize the well being of people and marine life, and for studies to continue after construction to promote accountability, we can make sure offshore wind works for us. Everyone in New Jersey deserves a safe place to live — a place to call home for generations to come.