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Winds of change? - Panel recommends building wind turbines off New Jersey coast

A "test project" with up to 80 wind turbines should be built off New Jersey's coast to learn more about the potential impact and benefits of offshore wind power, a state panel recommended. But the potential impact may be significant and New Jersey must stress conservation before pursuing energy facilities in the ocean, according to a minority report included in the package.


Turbines off the coast of Denmark
A blue ribbon state panel has recommended the construction of up to 80 wind turbines, such as these off the coast of Denmark.

"I will closely review the panel's findings and recommendations and consider them while working to shape New Jersey's energy and coastal policies," Gov. Corzine said in a state Department of Environmental Protection statement e-mailed Tuesday.

Tony Bogan of Bogan's Deep Sea Fishing Center in Brielle said "it's hard to react without knowing specifically where (the test project) would go."

"I'm encouraged by the fact that they're taking a step-by-step approach," Bogan said of the report.

The final report to Corzine of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Development of Wind Turbine Facilities in Coastal Waters is the culmination of months of work.

Then-Gov. Richard J. Codey created the nine-member panel in December 2004 and established a 15-month moratorium on the development of offshore wind turbines. The panel was to consider the environmental and economic costs and benefits of turbines and make recommendations on their appropriateness.

The report recommends studies before, during and after the construction of an offshore wind turbine test project. The project would... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Turbines off the coast of Denmark
A blue ribbon state panel has recommended the construction of up to 80 wind turbines, such as these off the coast of Denmark.

"I will closely review the panel's findings and recommendations and consider them while working to shape New Jersey's energy and coastal policies," Gov. Corzine said in a state Department of Environmental Protection statement e-mailed Tuesday.

Tony Bogan of Bogan's Deep Sea Fishing Center in Brielle said "it's hard to react without knowing specifically where (the test project) would go."

"I'm encouraged by the fact that they're taking a step-by-step approach," Bogan said of the report.

The final report to Corzine of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Development of Wind Turbine Facilities in Coastal Waters is the culmination of months of work.

Then-Gov. Richard J. Codey created the nine-member panel in December 2004 and established a 15-month moratorium on the development of offshore wind turbines. The panel was to consider the environmental and economic costs and benefits of turbines and make recommendations on their appropriateness.

The report recommends studies before, during and after the construction of an offshore wind turbine test project. The project would generate as much as 350 megawatts of electricity and have as many as 80 wind turbines.

A megawatt of wind energy can power about 225 to 300 households, according to the American Wind Energy Association Web site.

The "conditionally viable" area for a wind turbine project off New Jersey lies mostly beyond the state's three-mile jurisdiction, ac-cording to a study done for the state Board of Public Utilities.

That area extends roughly from the Seaside Heights-Seaside Park area south to Cape May, says the study, released last year.

Winergy Power LLC has proposed a wind farm with 98 electricity-generating turbines 3 1/2 miles off Monmouth County and 586 turbines at three locations off Cape May County, according to the company's Web site.

Offshore wind turbines would be about 400 feet high and visible miles away.

Winergy wanted to gain approval for one or two of those sites, a company official said last year. A company official could not be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon.

Red Bank Mayor Edward J. McKenna Jr., who chaired the panel, said potential locations for a test project will have to be "looked at a lot more closely, and we would guess it's going to be narrowed down to a short list."

The report's recommended studies could cost millions of dollars, McKenna said.

Jeff Tittel, who directs the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter, said: "You want to make sure (that a pilot project is in) the best location so that you can get the best data possible so you can make informed decisions.

"I think had they done a test project in the beginning, we would be at least halfway through it by now," he said.

"The development of offshore wind off New Jersey's coast makes sense now more than ever given the profoundly disturbing experiences our nation has faced and continues to face as a result of our dependence on fossil fuels," according to an e-mailed statement from the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, the New Jersey Environmental Federation and the Sierra Club's New Jersey chapter.

But Tim Dillingham, a panel member who filed a minority report on behalf of the American Littoral Society, said he thinks the need for a test project is "not well-supported" and premature.

"The state ought to be much more aggressively pursuing conservation before they start to put industrial structures . . . out in the ocean," said Dillingham, executive director of the littoral society, a Sandy Hook-based coastal conservation group.

"The value of offshore wind is very limited by the inefficiency of the technology," he said. "You have to have thousands of windmills to make any kind of significant contribution to energy.

"That many windmills off New Jersey will create significant conflicts both with the natural resources and the traditional uses of the ocean."

Like some environmental groups, fishermen have been somewhat split on the wind turbine concept. Some worry that windmill arrays and transmission cables could constrict their access to fishing grounds, while some recreational groups anticipate they could live with turbines — and even catch fish congregating around their foundations.

"I think it's a great idea," said Thomas P. Fote, a Dover Township fisherman and legislative chairman for the Jersey Coast Anglers Association. "Between gas prices and everything else, we need to do something."

Wind turbines arguably could have less of an impact than a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal that could be built 19 miles east of Sea Bright, Fote said. "At least the windmills are not islands that would be killing 100 or 200 acres of bottom," he said.

Bogan, a party fishing boat captain, is president of an industry group, United Boatmen of NJ/NY.

"The key issue for us is the footprint of the project," Bogan said.

Recreational anglers are particularly concerned with protecting what they call "structure," seafloor features that tend to attract fish and provide habitat, he noted.

"Even if the site isn't that important to us, it could have an impact on commercial fishing," Bogan added. "It might be clam beds, it might be scallop beds, it might be grounds where the flounder guys (trawlers) drag."


This story includes material from the Gannett State Bureau and previous Press stories. Todd B. Bates: (732) 643-4237 or tbates@app.com


Source: http://www.app.com/apps/pbc...

MAY 3 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2402-winds-of-change-panel-recommends-building-wind-turbines-off-new-jersey-coast
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