TRENTON – On Friday, the Department of Environmental Protection released its baseline report on offshore wind power following a two-year scientific study. The findings of the report indicate that wind energy can be produced with minimal environmental impact.
“This report clearly shows that New Jersey can have wind farms off the coast that will help provide clean energy for the state with negligible risks to the environment. The Sierra Club believes that this report is a big step but the state needs to move forward on permitting and funding for offshore wind,” said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director.
The further off the coast the windmills are placed, the more efficient they are. At 15 to 25 miles out, the windmills are invisible from shore and are much more efficient for generating power. Winds off the mid-Atlantic coast are rated at Class 4, 5 and 6. Classes 5 and 6 and are up to 60 percent efficient.
The report is a zoning map similar to the landscape maps that the DEP uses to determine environmentally sensitive areas. It designates areas that have the least potential for environmental impact. The existence of species in an area, however, does not mean those species will be negatively impacted. Evidence has shown that bases on windmills act like artificial reefs. This would increase fishery resources and food sources for sea mammals and sea turtles, according to environmentalists.
This report, although a step in the right direction, slowed the process of implementing wind power, Sierra Club officials said. The DEP spent two years on a blue ribbon panel and another two years on a baseline study that did not include an environmental review or risk assessment. The review must get done rapidly and efficiently so that the New Jersey can move forward to a clean energy future, according to the Sierra Club.
Not only is offshore wind clean power, in the long run, it is more economical and not subject to price volatility, according to the Sierra Club. Construction costs have soared for conventional power plants, and their fuel prices have increased under pressure from growing worldwide demand. Construction of an offshore wind farm currently costs only 30% more than a conventional coal plant for the same rated power capacity, and the “fuel” for a wind farm is free. Over the 25-year projected power plant life, using the same range of volatility that coal prices have exhibited in the past year (ranging from $55 to $145 per ton), wind is the better investment, according to the Sierra Club.
“Wind is the most cost effective and reliable form of renewable energy. In order for New Jersey to adequately protect the environment it needs to start building windmills and stop studying them. The biggest threat to the coasts is global warming, sea level rise and coal plants like BL England. We’re either going to have windmills or oil rigs, and we choose wind,” Tittel said.
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