By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian and his administration want visitors and residents to be informed when it comes to a proposed offshore wind farm that would set 98 towering turbines 15 miles offshore from Atlantic City to Stone Harbor.
In fact, Boardwalk strollers and beachgoers may have noticed signs at the Fifth Street and Sixth Street beach entrances installed on Monday. They include a depiction of what the project could look like from shore, namely the wind turbines.
The signs read: “Ocean City’s view if wind farms go through,” while depicting the wind turbines looming over the ocean horizon. Then adds, “At What Cost?” and in parentheses they say, “to our utility rates, ecosystems, health and economy.”
The signs also list the phone numbers to contact lawmakers.
“The signs were done by a reputable firm to show what the actual visual appearance would be. As of yesterday, there are two, but there is going to be more of them,” Ocean City Business Administrator George Savastano explained Tuesday of the signs.
He did not immediately have the exact number of other signs to be installed.
Danish wind energy company Orsted’s Ocean Wind 1 project would include 98 wind turbines stretching from Atlantic City to Stone Harbor while passing by a number of Cape May County shore communities, including Ocean City and Sea Isle City.
It would be a 1,100-megawatt project to generate enough electricity to provide 500,000 homes with renewable green energy, Orsted has said in statements.
But federal and state permitting has seemed to be on the fast-track since the project came to the area in 2019, according to county and city officials.
“The city objects to the process that has been taken. The city feels the process has been rushed and it is not appropriate given the magnitude of the project,” Savastano said.
He emphasized that the signs “are there to inform the public of what’s going to be coming and if they have concerns, there are points of contact.”
Earlier this month, just after the federal government approved the project, Mayor Gillian was critical of Orsted and its Ocean Wind 1 project. He remarked about a speedy regulatory review process.
“The review process for this project moved so fast that it has proved to be an exercise in checking boxes,” Gillian said.
Gillian also said that he has real concerns about the ramifications of such a project.
“More importantly, we have no idea what impact this project will have on our ecosystems and environment, our economy and our health,” he said.
Sharon Jaeger, her son, Rob, and his daughter, McKayla, 7, were on vacation in Ocean City from Cleveland.
The family said they enjoy their summer vacations in Ocean City. They were unaware of the proposed wind farm project until they saw one of the signs.
They read the sign at the entrance to the Sixth Street beach.
“This is the first we are hearing of this,” Rob Jaeger said. “It’s good the sign is here.”
And then both Sharon and Rob looked at the depiction of the turbines on the horizon.
“It certainly would look different,” Sharon said, and her son, agreed.
Over the last few months, Cape May County has installed signs on county roadways, including a “Protect Our Ocean” sign next to the Ocean City Transportation Center and one on Sea Isle Boulevard, the main entryway into Sea Isle City, that says, “Protect Our Ocean” and “Say No to Orsted and Big Wind.”
Savastano, who is also the business administrator for Sea Isle, said that the county informed Ocean City and Sea Isle “of what their plans were, and we didn’t object to the placement of the signs.”
Ocean City Board of Education member Robin Shaffer, a longtime critic and outspoken opponent of offshore wind, said he was pleased to see the signs up.
“I’m glad to see the city stepping up, along with Cape May County,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer also noted that grassroots organizations such as Protect Our Coast NJ, Defend Brigantine and Save LBI, are working together to fight the proposed wind farms.
“Currently, these three grassroots organizations are taking legal actions against the recent unconstitutional action by the New Jersey Legislature and Gov. (Phil) Murphy to give Orsted a $1 billion tax break,” Shaffer said.
Murphy, a strong supporter of offshore wind technology, wants New Jersey to become a leader in green energy.
So far, New Jersey has approved three offshore wind farms and is looking to add more. Murphy’s goal is to have offshore wind farms producing 11,000 megawatts of power in New Jersey by 2040.
Ocean Wind 1 would be the first offshore wind farm in the state and is part of Murphy’s broader strategy to make New Jersey a national leader in renewable energy.