Article

Use pilot project to study offshore windmills

The state shouldn't allow companies to build hundreds of windmills off the coast without first studying their effects on tourism, anglers and wildlife. There's no bigger part of New Jersey's multi-billion dollar tourism industry than the shore.

bbbbbbbbb

Associated Press file photo
Clouds hang over the mountains in 2002 near a wind farm outside Palm Springs, Calif. New Jersey lawmakers should only allow windmills such as these off the Jersey Shore after studying them first through a pilot program.


The state shouldn't allow companies to build hundreds of windmills off the coast without first studying their effects on tourism, anglers and wildlife.

There's no bigger part of New Jersey's multi-billion dollar tourism industry than the shore.

A magnet for vacationers from all across the Northeast and beyond, the Jersey Shore is perhaps this state's biggest asset.

While it might not seem obvious, part of the shore's value is energy potential, specifically wind energy.

With its steady breezes year round, New Jersey's shoreline and ocean are rife with potential for generating large amounts of electricity by harnessing the wind. And at a time when energy prices are soaring, this is a potential the state must consider tapping.

That's why a blue ribbon panel recommended Tuesday building up to 80 windmills in the ocean as part of a pilot program to assess the impact of offshore wind farms on boaters and wildlife.

Examining the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
bbbbbbbbb

Associated Press file photo
Clouds hang over the mountains in 2002 near a wind farm outside Palm Springs, Calif. New Jersey lawmakers should only allow windmills such as these off the Jersey Shore after studying them first through a pilot program.


The state shouldn't allow companies to build hundreds of windmills off the coast without first studying their effects on tourism, anglers and wildlife.

There's no bigger part of New Jersey's multi-billion dollar tourism industry than the shore.

A magnet for vacationers from all across the Northeast and beyond, the Jersey Shore is perhaps this state's biggest asset.

While it might not seem obvious, part of the shore's value is energy potential, specifically wind energy.

With its steady breezes year round, New Jersey's shoreline and ocean are rife with potential for generating large amounts of electricity by harnessing the wind. And at a time when energy prices are soaring, this is a potential the state must consider tapping.

That's why a blue ribbon panel recommended Tuesday building up to 80 windmills in the ocean as part of a pilot program to assess the impact of offshore wind farms on boaters and wildlife.

Examining the impact of a few ocean windmills before allowing them on a wider scale makes sense. Officials in Trenton should authorize the pilot program recommended by the New Jersey Blue Ribbon Panel on Development of Wind Turbine Facilities in Coastal Waters.

However, besides being monitored for the effect on fishermen and animals, offshore windmills would also need to be closely looked at in regard to how they affect tourism.

Clean, renewable energy is certainly worthwhile. But, it's critical that effects on shore tourism are examined. If large numbers of beach-goers are turned off by the sight of windmills in the ocean and start vacationing in other states because of it, offshore windmills would have to be reconsidered.

Dollars at stake

Last year, in Cape May County alone, shore tourism generated $4.6 billion in revenue, up 13.8 percent from the year before. Billions more are generated by beach-goers in Atlantic, Ocean and Monmouth counties. Tourism accounts for roughly 10 percent of jobs in New Jersey.

So it's impossible for the state to ignore, as it considers offshore wind farms, what they might mean for tourism.

Beach-goers are used to lying on the sand and gazing out into the ocean's open expanse.

However, windmills in the Atlantic Ocean could likely extend more than 200 feet into the air. Even at more than three miles out, the windmills would certainly be very visible from the beach.

With that in mind, officials should look for ocean locations where windmills would be least seen by beach-goers.

And when and if they are built, which could be as early as next year, it's important that state officials look closely at whether hotels, restaurants, boardwalk vendors and other businesses are hurt by the windmills being within sight.

Energy potential

Still, the energy is there, just waiting to be harnessed.

In Atlantic City, five modern windmills were erected on City Island, behind the Borgata and Harrah's, late last year. The windmills are capable of generating up to 7.5 megawatts of electricity. That's enough to not only power operations at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority's sewage treatment plant and save the ACUA $350,000 a year, but also to send enough electricity into the regional grid to power thousands of homes.

However, to operate at peak efficiency, the five turbines need steady wind speeds between 18 and 24 mph. Community Energy, the Pennsylvania company that helped build the wind farm in Atlantic City, believes those wind speeds should occur about a third of the time. At other times, when there's little to no wind, the turbines won't generate any power.

Certainly, with offshore windmills, this would also be the case. There would be times when a cluster of several dozen windmills in the ocean could produce enough electricity to power tens of thousands of homes and businesses. On days without wind, they'd sit idle.

Nevertheless, the energy they would produce would be completely clean and renewable.

Certainly, while weighing this pilot program, state officials should also look to on-shore options for wind farms. In Atlantic City, the state's first utility-grade wind farm sits on land on the bay side of the city. Beach-goers in Atlantic City and surrounding towns don't have to look to the ocean and see windmills taller than the Statue of Liberty on the horizon.

The state should look for other inland locations just off the beach to host wind farms where there will be no issues about disturbing ocean views.

However, with real estate limited by development, physical barriers and wetlands protections, the ocean offers the most potential for wind farms.

Two years ago, a New York company put forth a proposal to build 900 wind-propelled turbines off the Cape May coast.

Before allowing private companies to build hundreds or thousands of huge windmills in the ocean, the state needs to take a close look at exactly what the benefits and drawbacks are. A closely monitored pilot program that allows a limited number of offshore windmills is the way to do that.

If built and shown to be a success, they could have a great impact on electricity supply and prices. However, if the pilot program proved them to do more harm to beach tourism than they're worth, they could be removed.



Source: http://www.courierpostonlin...

MAY 7 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2484-use-pilot-project-to-study-offshore-windmills
back to top