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blue ribbon panel on developen of wind turbine facilities in coastal waters photo credit: United State Department of Energy
March 7, 2005 Meeting Minutes

TThe first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Panel took place on Monday, March 7 at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). It was attended by Commissioner Bradley Campbell (Department of Environmental Protection), Secretary Virginia Bauer (Commerce) and President Jeanne Fox (Board of Public Utilities), and by the members of the Blue Ribbon Wind Panel: Edward McKenna, Tim Dillingham, Ted Korth, Bonnie McCay, Diane Wieland, and Scott Weiner.

Mayor McKenna opened the meeting with welcoming remarks and a general outline of the charges placed on the panel. Following the opening remarks, the panel members introduced themselves.

Mike Winka (Board of Public Utilities) opened the series of tutorials by describing New Jersey’s energy profile. This included its seasonal needs, its generation capacity, the sources that provide the State’s energy, alternate sources of energy, such as photovoltaic generation, and how the State fits into the regional electric system or “grid” as run by PJM. He then went on to discuss the operational aspects of existing wind systems in terms of capacity and performance. For New Jersey specifically for siting wind mill farms, offshore locations provide more productive siting compared to onshore locations, because of the greater velocity of the wind and lack of shear. Over the course of the past fifteen years, wind turbines have become capable of generating a greater amount of electricity with the developments in turbine technology. At the same time, the cost of producing electricity from wind systems has decreased so that it is now only slightly less than twice the cost of conventional energy technologies. Even at this price, it is a low-cost renewable energy resource compared to photovoltaic power. Offshore wind generation is more expensive than onshore because of added installation, operation, maintenance, and transmission costs.

Nancy Byrne (Travel and Tourism) followed with a presentation on the importance of tourism, specifically shore tourism, since this would be the area most directly affected visually by the building of wind turbines. Tourism is one of the most important economic resources of the State of New Jersey. It directly benefits all levels of society—state, county and municipal. As the second largest private sector employer in the state, it generates as much as 10% of all jobs in a given year (415,000 jobs).

The main “shore” counties (Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean and Monmouth) realize 72% of the tourism expenditures, while tourism in these counties provides a sizeable percentage of employment (except for Monmouth). Tourism-related expenditure and employment are found in the entertainment, accommodation, transportation, food, and shopping areas. While shore tourism involves a wide range of activities, including night-life, dining and entertainment, the main attraction remains the many miles of shoreline and the fishing and boating opportunities available.

Next, Joe Carpenter (Division of Science, Research and Technology) gave a presentation of the physical constraints on offshore wind locations. The opportunities are most clearly defined by the type of winds that prevail, since the generation of electricity requires a minimum wind velocity. The stronger, more consistent winds are generally located farther offshore in deeper water which, as noted above, increases installation, maintenance and transmission costs. The wind turbines must also be located in such a way that they can be efficiently connected to the already existing operating grid. Joe concluded with the caveat that the presentation only reviewed physical location constraints, not environmental and financial.

Kevin Hassell (Coastal Zone Management) summarized potential conflicts that could arise between offshore wind facilities and other maritime uses and resources. Commercial fishing, an important industry, could be adversely affected; both dredging and trawling vessels might not be able to operate in the areas of transmission cables linking to the shore or in the actual vicinity of the wind turbines. Because of its proximity to both New York and Philadelphia, the coast of New Jersey lies within one of the most important import/export areas of the county. Offshore wind farms would have to avoid shipping lanes, lightering areas and approaches to shore. Numerous offshore areas of New Jersey have restrictions relating to aviation and national defense matters.

Cultural and environmental elements that might be adversely affected by wind turbines are avian species (migratory and nesting birds) and marine mammals and turtles, although the extent of such adverse impact is not known. There already exists a submerged infrastructure of telecommunication cables, which could be disturbed by the high energy AC current generated by the turbines, and ocean outfalls. In addition, the location of wind farms could adversely impact sites used as borrow areas for shore protection or beach replenishment projects, as well as lead to socioeconomic unjust siting. Finally, if one wind farm is successful, more might follow and entail more widespread adverse impacts.

Throughout the course of the tutorials, which were high level overviews not designed to cover all of the issues to be addressed by the panel, the panel members discussed a variety of topics including the importance of renewable energy to NJ, the wilderness quality of ocean views, the public trust nature of marine and tidally flowed lands, and approaches to polling public opinion regarding offshore wind turbines. Panel members agreed to share available information.

After the conclusion of the tutorials, the panel focused on administrative matters. A next step includes scheduling meetings with the Mayors and Freeholders of the four coastal counties (Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May). It was decided to send each mayor a packet of information prior to the meetings with the four-county mayors and freeholders. It was also decided to open these meetings to the public, but not to invite public comments, which would be reserved for the three public hearing meetings.

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Last Modified: March 28, 2005
 
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