Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
The Offshore Wind (OSW) Project slated for New Jersey holds great promise. When the first two phases are complete, as many as one million homes can run on clean energy. To put that in prospective, that is roughly every home from Interstate 195 to the Delaware Bay and from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean. Wind power has been considered an alternative source of energy since the 1970s with bipartisan support. Research and planning for OSW in New Jersey began in 2006. The current zones for development in N.J. were determined in 2016 by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the federal agency with oversight of OSW.
When I heard that leading GOP officials such as Congressman Jeff Van Drew and State Senator Vince Polistina were speaking at an anti-OSW community hearing in Brigantine on February 11th, my family and I decided to attend. As with all initiatives, I knew there would be trade-offs and I wanted to learn more about it. Unfortunately, their arguments were political and relied more on grievance rather than facts. In addition to the usual list of “villains” such as President Biden, Governor Murphy and corporations, community activists made accusations against Stockton University and the press.
Much of the grievance focused on whales and visibility. It is worth dispelling some myths. The whale deaths are tragic. However, there has been a spike in whale deaths since 2016, long before the OSW project. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) verified these deaths are not associated with OSW. They have been attributed to boat strikes and redistribution of food sources. It also should be noted a peer-reviewed study published March 2022 in ICES Journal of Marine Science, analyzed Rhode Island’s Block Island OSW farm. The study concluded the Rhode Island OSW farm had no impact on marine life. In terms of visibility of OSW farms, the turbines will be at least eight miles from shore. The distance one can see over the horizon is 2.8 to 3 miles according to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
The benefits of this project, besides combatting climate change which should be discussed, are its positive impact on national security and its positive impact on regional economic development. OSW represents a new form of energy generation. The United States should want to lead in this innovation rather than cede the advantage to China. OSW also provides us with a more diverse base of energy. This diversity builds our resilience against energy disruptions like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and against direct attacks of our infrastructure.
Bad international actors such as Russia, regularly target our energy grid. The FBI reported in March 2022 Russia has been regularly scanning our grid for vulnerabilities. More energy generation from OSW protects us, providing back-up sources. In 2015, when N.J. was considering OSW through Fisherman’s Energy, then-State Senator Jeff Van Drew was a supporter. He cited the need for U.S. leadership in this area, actually admonishing the U.S to “get off its duff.”
Another benefit involves bringing a new industry to our otherwise stagnating South Jersey economy. The need for economic diversification is a belief shared by a variety of stakeholders. Republican County Executive, Dennis Levenson, touted Atlantic County’s leadership in alternative energy and state OSW to be aligned with the county’s economic diversification plan in a 2021 Insider NJ. The Atlantic County Economic Alliance, Atlantic County’s lead economic development group, has shown strong interest in OSW, not just as an economic catalyst in and of itself, but how it compliments aviation. The cargo capacity of Atlantic City Airport, a key economic driver in the region, can support OSW. The proposed aircraft maintenance academy aligns with OSW because the skills to repair turbines are similar to those used to repair aircraft engines. There is the potential for drones, key component of the NARTP research and development efforts, to be used for OSW turbine monitoring.
Our educational institutions here in South Jersey have recognized the value of OSW. Atlantic Cape Community College has established an OSW safety training program at its Atlantic City campus. ACIT has received a $1.5 million grant for OSW career development. This demonstrates the extent of the role that OSW plays in our economic growth.
OSW is a boost for our country and region. Our regional elected officials, especially the Republicans, face a choice. They can follow the lead of the “do-nothing” Republicans in Congress and hold our regional economy back or they can lead us boldly into the future. Therefore, I implore the Atlantic County commission and Atlantic County municipal governments to pass resolutions in support of Offshore Wind.