By MADDY VITALE
Wind farm officials outlined in a Zoom meeting Monday night why they want to install a transmission line under the seabed in Ocean City and bring electricity onshore through a cable at the beach lots of 35th Street.
And they also heard a lot of comments from opponents of the project, as well as those in favor of the plan. The project is in the planning and permitting phase and is slated for completion by 2024.
Although Orsted and PSEG, the wind farm’s development partnership, specified that public comment should be limited to the transmission line during the meeting, many of the people commented on the project as a whole.
The wind farm, called Ocean Wind, would include 98 wind turbines. Each turbine is roughly 900 feet tall and would stretch down the coast from Atlantic City to Stone Harbor about 15 miles offshore, passing by Ocean City and Sea Isle City in the process.
The meeting lasted two hours and 35 minutes and the vast majority of people who spoke were against the wind farm, while five or six others were in favor of it.
“This will destroy our beautiful beach community,” Ocean City resident Cathy Ingham said during public comment. “This will destroy our tourism and our property values.”
Elizabeth Mallozzi spoke in favor of the project.
“As a resident, I want Ocean City to have maximum benefits,” Mallozzi said, adding that she believes the proposal would be good for the environment and the community.
Orsted, a Danish energy company, filed a petition on Feb. 2 with the state Board of Public Utilities to utilize an area of Ocean City to install a transmission line. The lands for the proposed transmission line that would run through Ocean City “are encumbered by state of New Jersey Green Acres restrictions.”
Orsted would need the approval of the state Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey State House Commission to proceed.
Orsted and PSEG representatives explained the reasons they think that the transmission line through 35th Street in Ocean City would be the best and most direct route.
Pilar Patterson, Orsted’s head of Mid-Atlantic permitting, said, “For tonight’s hearing, we are focusing on the shorter cable and where it comes onshore in Ocean City and involves less than one acre in Ocean City itself. The purpose of the hearing should be focused on the Green Acres diversion.”
The cable would extend from the seabed and bring electricity onshore through a cable at the beach lots of 35th Street in Ocean City. The underground cable would travel west to Bay Avenue, north on Bay Avenue to Roosevelt Boulevard, west across Peck Bay at Roosevelt Boulevard Bridge and then continue on to Route 9 to property near the former B.L. England Generating Station in Upper Township.
PSEG representative David Hinchey Jr. explained the transmission line in more detail and said that work would be done in the offseason and it would be primarily on public road rights-of-way.
“There would be no changes to the beach and no planned maintenance in the converted parcels,” Hinchey said. “If needed, it would be maintained through manholes.”
Ocean City would retain ownership of the land and public access to the beach remains undisturbed, Orsted officials noted.
Over the last few years, Orsted has touted what the wind farm could mean to the area, including an 1,100-megawatt project providing clean, renewable energy. It would also create thousands of construction jobs and power over 500,000 homes.
But skeptics say it has the potential to be bad for marine life, wildlife and the commercial fishing industry. Some opposed to the project also said it could negatively affect real estate values, seasonal rentals, the tourism industry, drive up taxes, and increase the region’s energy bills. There are also concerns over the sight of the turbines on the horizon and noise from the blades.
Others against the project spoke of how more studies should be done to determine whether there is an overwhelming need for the project.
“We demand extensive scientific and environmental studies be done. We are a very small island and the proposed area Orsted wants to use for the cable is a densely packed area of homes and a few stores,” said Ocean City resident Suzanne Hornick, who is a core committee member of Save Our Shorelines NJ.
Greg Cudnik, a Long Beach Island resident and avid fisherman, said there is “no compelling need. What it is doing is putting the community and wildlife in jeopardy.”
But people in favor of the plan, including Ocean City Sean Raymond, said the project is needed to help the environment.
“I want to apologize for some of the harsh comments you are receiving,” Raymond told the Orsted and PSEG officials. “There is a ton of infrastructure already in our sight lines (that) we take very little note of. We look down 34th Street, we see parking lots, grocery stores. I think it is insincere to accuse Orsted of destroying property. I support the project and I am grateful for your work on this.”
New Jersey State Conference NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice Chairman Marcus Sibley said Orsted officials should clarify major aspects of the project to the public.
“I appreciate the comments from the presenters thus far,” he said.
Sibley, however, emphasized that officials need to look at three areas concerning residents of Ocean City — optics, economics and inconvenience.
He noted that people are afraid of how they may be impacted by the wind farm.
“I think it is important for the developer to clear up misconceptions,” Sibley said, adding that there needs to be more information about jobs that could be created by the project.
Answers to all of the questions from the Zoom meeting will be compiled in one document, Orsted officials said.
The document will be available on the Ocean Wind website after March 21.
The public may submit written comments for two weeks following the scoping meeting. All written comments must be submitted by March 21 to Tom Suthard at Orsted Ocean Wind, 600 Atlantic Ave., Suite 2, Atlantic City, New Jersey 08401 or Info@OceanWind.com.
A copy of any written comments must also be submitted to the Green Acres Program at either BLSSpubliccomments@dep.nj.gov with “Ocean Wind” in the subject line, or to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Green Acres Program, Bureau of Legal Services and Stewardship, 401 E. State St., 7th Floor, Mail Code 401-07B, P.O. Box 420, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0420, Attn: Ocean Wind Application.
More information about the Project can be found at oceanwind.com.