Plans for offshore wind turbines off the coast of New Jersey/USA in the making

State and federal officials meet for rounds of discussion

A Virginia-based company hired by the state Board of Public Utilities to study the idea of putting windmills off the New Jersey coast met privately with state and federal officials to discuss building a pilot project of about 10 wind turbines. And a New York state-based company is still moving ahead with its plans to build a wind farm -- with 400-foot turbines visible from shore off the New Jersey coast, possibly several miles off Monmouth County. The company already has contacted some towns about purchasing power, the company's president said. Meanwhile, the state Department of Environmental Protection has voiced concerns about the potential impacts of offshore wind farms on birds and marine mammals. It is also concerned that "exclusion zones" -- where fishing would be banned -- could be created around windmills and over power cables.

People interviewed on the boardwalk and beach in Asbury Park Thursday had mixed views about building windmills off the coast, including off Asbury Park. These windmills would be about 40 stories high. "I think that's a terrible idea," said George Nelson, a 38-year-old manager who lives in Neptune. "Number one, with the rebuilding of Asbury Park, I think it will take away from the type of scenery that they're trying to bring back to Asbury." But Gene Thomas, a 66-year-old retiree who lives in Neptune, said he would not mind seeing windmills in the ocean. "I guess they wouldn't do any harm," he said. Both Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp., the Richmond, Va.-based company hired by the BPU to do a $300,000 study on the feasibility of harnessing wind energy off New Jersey's coast, and Winergy LLC of Shirley, N.Y., are among the companies that are interested in building offshore wind farms.

BPU officials have refused to release the draft study, saying the report is not finished and is exempt from disclosure under the state Open Public Records Act. "The BPU has just received the latest version" of the study, and intends to put the report on the Dec. 22 board public agenda and make the report available to the public that day, according to a BPU statement e-mailed to the Asbury Park Press.
Some groups and citizens like the idea of offshore windmills generating clean, renewable energy. But many have voiced concerns about their potential impact on migrating birds and marine life, scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean, fishing and access to prime fishing areas, boating and the Shore tourism that feeds the economy.

No wind farms have been built off the United States so far. Many proposals are pending, however, including a controversial plan for a 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod. Some environmental activists and others say standards for regulating offshore wind farms are inadequate or nonexistent. State standards for offshore windmills will be developed in a public process, and the DEP hopes to have standards in place next year, DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell has said. Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a Sandy Hook-based coastal conservation group, said "the state . . . particularly the BPU, has continued to push for offshore windmill development despite the fact that there are unanswered questions and inadequate protections in place, and that borders on irresponsible."
Online editorial www.windfair.net
Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
USA, Virginia, New Jersey, wind energy, wind turbine, wind power, wind farm, offshore, onshore

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