By MADDY VITALE
An ocean wind farm project that could power more than a half a million New Jersey homes, create thousands of jobs and bolster the state’s use of renewable energy will be discussed at a town hall meeting Saturday, Feb 8 in Ocean City.
The public meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ocean City Tabernacle, 550 Wesley Ave. The wind farm company, Orsted, will have representatives and consultants on hand to answer questions about the project.
Orsted was selected by the state to build an 1,100-megawatt wind farm by 2024, which will include two years of permitting.
But while the project is proposed 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, an electric cable would need to be run — possibly through the inlet in Ocean City — to the former B.L. England power plant in Beesley’s Point.
Approximately 90 turbines would be installed in the deep waters with the hub of the turbine standing 511 feet tall, with blades increasing the height to a total of 905 feet, explained Kris Ohleth, senior stakeholder relations manager of Orsted in an interview Friday.
Some Ocean City residents, who did not wish to be quoted until after the Feb. 8 meeting, said they have serious concerns over what the turbines could do to the seascape and if there would be perceptible noise from the propellers. Ultimately, they said, these two things could interfere with the resort’s robust tourism economy.
“We have such a short tourism season anyway. If there is any negative impact – even if it cuts tourism by 10 percent – it is just not worth it for them to mess with a good thing,” said one person who wished to remain anonymous. “Let them experiment with it somewhere else. It is nothing more than an industrial park on the water.”
Ohleth said that there will be certain areas from shore where you could see the turbines, and there will be areas where you could hear them as well.
“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 said the windfarm is not audible from shore.
Ohleth, who gave a presentation on the project in Ocean City during a town hall meeting on Aug. 27, said she has heard those very same concerns from other residents and understands that there are questions that need to be answered and will be at the Feb. 8 meeting.
Ocean City resident and environmentalist Donna Moore had some questions about the wind farm during the Aug. 27 meeting. Like the other concerned residents, Moore is not against the idea of wind farms, but does not want the New Jersey project to disturb nature and marine life.
“I have some environmental questions I hope to have answered,” Moore said prior to the start of the meeting. “I am concerned with marine mammal migration. Also, I wonder how it will impact the year-round population and how the installation and operation of the project will affect migratory bird routes.”
Ohleth said, unlike the August meeting, there will be a question and answer portion and plenty of visuals on Feb. 8.
“We will have all the visuals at the meeting,” Ohleth explained. “We take pictures from a couple of places in Ocean City. Some visuals show a couple of miles from shore.”
When it comes to possible fears of deterring tourists from visiting the resort, she said surveys show the state supports wind energy.
“We have never seen a negative impact on tourism due to a wind farm,” Ohleth said.
She explained there will be a variety of proposed routes for the cables. Maps will be on display for people to view, with experts from Orsted right there to answer questions.
Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian sent a letter to residents dated Nov. 15, 2019, telling the public about the potential project.
“We are writing to tell you about an exciting new project that Orsted will bring to New Jersey,” he stated.
The mayor continued, “All of the energy produced by the Ocean Wind project will be delivered to the existing New Jersey electric grid, serving local homes and businesses.”
Orsted is exploring three locations where underground cables could connect to the grid. One includes the former B.L. England Generating Station in Beesley’s Point, where clean energy would replace what was once produced at the coal-burning plant. If this location is chosen, underground cables would pass below Ocean City, the letter stated.
Ohleth said that the project will provide many benefits.
“The long term benefits are a new — really once in a generation opportunity — to bring a new industry to the state and the region,” she said. “This doesn’t happen any other day. Offshore winds will be bringing thousands of jobs to New Jersey and South Jersey. It is a huge opportunity.”
For more information from Orsted, people may contact Kris Ohleth, senior stakeholder relations manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.