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
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
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.