By MADDY VITALE
With the prospect of 90 turbines sitting a mile apart 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City in a wind farm project slated for 2024, a public forum Tuesday laid out some concerns about the possible impacts on tourism, the environment and the fishing industry.
The program, hosted by the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce, was held at the Flanders Hotel in Ocean City.
Speakers, including Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, Cape May County Chamber officials, County Tourism Director Diane Wieland and fishing industry experts, heard from Orsted, the company building the wind farm.
Among the dignitaries in attendance at the standing-room-only event was former Gov. Jim Florio, who did not speak about the project.
The project is touted by Orsted, which has built 26 other wind farms, as one that would supply clean renewable energy, power more than half a million New Jersey homes and create thousands of jobs.
Wieland said the county is excited about the prospect of Orsted creating an estimated 3,000 jobs for the area. However, she, like others, has questions.
To view a rendering of what the project would look like off Ocean City click on this link:
“A lot of people are concerned,” she told the audience.
Fishing, eco-tourism and the beaches are all reasons people visit or live in Cape May County, she noted.
“It is no secret people come to Cape May County for quality of life,” Wieland said.
That is why more meetings and communication with Orsted officials and the public are key to a successful co-existence, she said.
“We hope this will be part of a conversation that puts people at ease,” she said of Tuesday’s meeting.
Tourism and job creation are paramount, but so is quality of life, Wieland noted.
“I’m excited to find out more about eco-opportunities,” she said.
With Cape May County’s fishing industry robust, the hope is that it is not disrupted by a wind farm.
Wieland said the fishing industry has a lot of questions about how the project will affect fishing.
The turbines would be spaced about a mile apart in rows and installed in deep water. The hub of the turbine would stand 511 feet tall, with blades increasing the height to a total of 905 feet.
Jeff Kaelin, director of sustainability and government relations for Lund’s Fisheries, told the crowd that he, along with others in the fishing industry, are approaching the idea of a wind farm project with “healthy skepticism.”
He also noted that he feels the fisheries are being “disproportionately impacted,” and he worries about the footprint on the sea floor as turbines are installed in federal waters.
“Tradeoffs are going to be an issue as we go down the road,” he said. “This is all new and very challenging for us. Our goal is to co-exist and not to be displaced.”
The audience listened to the speakers discuss impacts of wind development. They also heard about how to get involved.
Sy Oytan, a representative of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, spoke of ways Orsted will work with larger companies on offering tax credits designed to bring turbine manufacturers to New Jersey.
He added that Orsted would also collaborate with small and mid-sized companies in New Jersey to help develop job skills for workers in the offshore wind industry.
Kris Ohleth, senior stakeholder relations manager of Orsted, along with other Orsted representatives, have attended multiple meetings in Cape May, Atlantic and Ocean counties, to keep an open line of communication between the company, local and state officials and the public.
She noted that there are renderings of the wind farm available to view from poster to photo size.
“We like to be out in the community. We have been in the forefront in stakeholder engagement in Atlantic and Cape May counties,” Ohleth said.
The biggest questions or concerns the company has heard from members of the public involve the turbines, she pointed out.
“The turbines are the most efficient on the market,” Ohleth said.
Ohleth told OCNJDaily.com in an interview earlier this month what people could expect to see or hear from the turbines from the shore.
“You will be able to see them from shore, but they would be barely visible on only the clearest of days and about an eighth of an inch high off of the water – the horizon,” she said.
She also said the wind farm would not be audible from shore.
Orsted has acquired property in Atlantic City for a worksite. The company will employ 70 long-term workers there. When work gets underway, some employees will be housed in “floating hotels” out on the ocean.