Includes Marine Lease Site for Atlantic Shores
One of the six wind lease areas included in the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s first-ever regional environmental review and analysis is the 79,351 acres belonging to the company with plans to construct the largest single offshore wind project in New Jersey, approximately 10 to 20 miles off the coast between Atlantic City and Barnegat Light.
The wind lease areas are part of the New York Bight, which runs from Cape May Inlet to Montauk Point on Long Island. It’s part of a larger area called the Mid-Atlantic Bight, extending from Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
“A bight is a long, gradual bend or recess in the shoreline that forms a large, open bay. Bights are shallow and may pose hazards to navigation, so their depths, in addition to any submerged features, like sand bars and rock formations, are clearly marked on nautical charts,” according to the National Ocean Service, an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
BOEM awarded Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Bight LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlantic Shores Wind LLC, the nearly 80,000 acres in February. The company paid $780 million for the lease area in an auction that saw five other companies successfully bid for a slice of the lease area.
In New Jersey, Atlantic Shores 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.
Earlier this month, BOEM concluded its three virtual public meetings on the New York programmatic environmental impact statement for the six offshore wind lease areas before then extending the public comment period. The comment period ends at 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 30.
Specific analysis for each proposed offshore wind project will result from the programmatic review once individual construction and operations plans are submitted by leaseholders, according to BOEM.
“This new regional approach is an evolution of our process to help ensure timely decisions that advance offshore wind while protecting the ocean environment and marine life,” said Amanda Lefton, BOEM director.
Officials from the New Jersey Resource Project said BOEM had already take into consideration extensive feedback from the commercial fishing industry, stakeholders and the public when it comes to wind energy areas.
“It has also reduced the size of its lease areas by 72% in order to decrease conflicts with ocean users and minimalize environmental impact,” NJRP said. “Offshore wind itself will prove to be an economic boon.”
NJRP cited the fall 2021 groundbreaking of a 200-acre wind port facility in Salem County as an example. The $250 million project is expected to create 1,500 permanent jobs while bringing in $500 million in economic activity, according to NJRP.
“It is important for offshore wind to be developed responsibly – and that means minimizing impacts on wildlife, making (sure) recreational fishing communities will have access to fish areas, that marine radar issues are resolved so boats can safely navigate, that good jobs make it to our communities and that our communities see other benefits like those to small businesses or community improvement investments,” NJRP said.
Locally, the Save Long Beach Island group sued BOEM in U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, in January.
“Our lawsuit is directed to BOEM’s most recent adoption of wind energy areas in the New York Bight, which includes the farther out Hudson South area,” Save LBI President Bob Stern said at that time. “However, our suit also links the EIS (environmental impact study) to be conducted for those outer areas to the NJ wind energy area (which includes both projects off LBI and Atlantic City) because development there is ‘connected’ to those outer areas in terms of meeting state energy goals, having common impact areas, electric markets and timeframes, and to address cumulative impacts.”
Stern, who lives in Beach Haven, is a former director of environmental compliance for the U.S. Department of Energy and a founding member of the grassroots organization.
The complaint also alleges BOEM failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act in determining its wind energy area decisions because it did not consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding potential impact to endangered marine animals.
A similar complaint was dismissed by the U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, last June, according to NJRP.
“In that case, Fisheries Survival Fund et al v. Jewell, the plaintiffs challenged BOEM’s issuance of a lease area for New York, arguing that it violated NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) by failing to analyze the full environmental impacts of constructing and operating an offshore wind facility,” NJRP said. “BOEM argued that although it had granted a lease to the developer, the claims were premature … because the agency had not yet approved a site assessment plan or construction, or operations plan for the proposed facility. Environmental impact statements are typically not conducted prior to this.”
— Gina G. Scala