May 26, 2022
By Gina G. Scala
“The largest threat to LBI is the impact of climate change. It is not just about next year’s storm. The sea level is rising,” said Doug O’Malley, state director of Environment New Jersey, sitting outside The Arlington in Ship Bottom on May 17 as the networking event was in full swing.
It is anticipated the sea level will rise over 1 to 2 feet over the next three decades, he said.
“Future storms that hit LBI will make the Ash Wednesday storm (March 1962) seem like a passing rain shower,” O’Malley said. “If you acknowledge climate change is the largest threat to LBI, we need to massively expand clean, renewable energy resources as fast as we can. Offshore wind is the best solution.”
There are two planned offshore wind projects for New Jersey. Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind is expected to start onshore construction of substations in 2024 and offshore construction by 2025. The project is a 50-50 partnership between Shell New Energies US LLC and EDF Renewables North America. It was formed in December 2018 to co-develop nearly 183,353 acres of leased sea area on the Outer Continental Shelf, located within the New Jersey Wind Energy Area.
The proposed project off Long Beach Island would, as currently planned, place up to 200 Vesta-236 gearbox turbines, standing 853 to 1,046 feet above sea level, 9 to 20 miles offshore.
Just south of Atlantic Shores is Ocean Wind 1, a joint venture between Ørsted and Public Service Enterprise Group. It is expected to be operational in 2024 and would produce enough electricity to power more than 500,000 homes. Engineering, procurement and construction contracts have recently been awarded for the project, the first in New Jersey.
“While we might be nervous, wind energy is one option for us to become a more resilient community in the face of sea level rise and other environmental pollution issues. We want to make sure that we make this new resource work for us as a community in terms of providing jobs and creating a healthier community,” said Amy Williams, a local science teacher and New Jersey Resource Project board member.
“Offshore (projects) means community access to green jobs,” added the Rev. Richard Tuff, organizer for GreenFaith in New Jersey. He specializes in organizing Black churches for environmental leadership. “It gets us a seat at the table.”
He said the offshore wind industry would provide life-altering careers for communities that are often left behind, but the work readiness, training and union development that are part of offshore wind development are “a win-win situation for the community. I am just glad to be a part of it.”
Opponents of the current offshore wind projects, however, say turbines visible from the Island would have a negative impact.
“Visibility is an excuse,” said Jody Stewart, lead community organizer for storm disaster and climate work for NJRP, adding, “I respect a person’s concerns, but they have to go further than their emotions. This isn’t about my future, but my grandchildren’s future.”
Stewart spent the better part of two decades working in the marina industry and believes the key to increasing support for responsible offshore wind development is education.
Jamie Harrison, an NJRP community member from Waretown, said she fully supports the concept of clean energy and offshore wind development but had questions about sea, air and the overall environmental impact.
“Jody helped with that,” she said. “We need renewable (energy) sources.”
Opponents remain concerned, however, about the environmental impact of offshore wind development.
“Looking at the many ways responsibly developed offshore wind power will improve the ocean, we are hopeful that it will benefit fisheries production sustainably for generations to come,” said Capt. Paul Eidman of Anglers for Offshore Wind Power. “Pollution-free energy from offshore wind turbines offers us a solution that can help to slow down some of the most serious issues facing all fishermen: ocean warming, acidification, gamefish moving away. Offshore power could enhance and bring new life to our coastal ecosystems and economy if we just give it a chance.”
— Gina G. Scala