A proposed wind farm off the Jersey Shore could significantly affect local fisheries and boat traffic but generally have little impact on tourism and marine life while helping to move away from oil and gas, according to the draft environmental impact statement released Friday by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The impact statement is the next step toward winning federal approval for Ocean Wind, a wind farm to be built by the Danish energy company Ørsted and PSEG.
The draft statement addressed concerns by officials in some New Jersey beach towns that the turbines would spoil the ocean views and discourage tourists from returning.
It said the impact of the wind farm would be moderate on tourism due to noise from construction and the new structures, but that the wind turbines could attract tourists eager to see them.
The impact on cultural artifacts could be significant as “the introduction of intrusive visual elements” could “alter character-defining ocean views of historic properties onshore” and work on the ocean floor could disturb shipwrecks or submerged archaeological sites, the statement said.
And the significant impacts on fisheries could be attributed to ongoing regulations, climate change and the disruptions to operations by the construction and installation of the turbines, the report said. Some fishing vessels would decide to avoid the area altogether.
In addition, the new structures would force changes in navigation routes and could increase congestion and the chances of accidents along the borders of the wind farm.
“The increase in potential for marine accidents, which may result in injury, loss of life, and property damage, could produce disruptions for ocean users,” the draft statement said.
BOEM said the Ocean Wind project would involve as many as 98 wind turbines about 15 mils southeast of Atlantic City, generating from 1,215 to 1,440 megawatts of electricity. That could power up to 504,000 homes per year. The wind farm is scheduled to become operational in 2024.
The wind farm also is expected to generate $1.2 billion in economic benefits and create about 15,000 jobs. It would be the nation’s largest such project.
It is part of an effort by President Joe Biden and Gov. Phil Murphy to develop offshore wind and wean the U.S. away from the fossil fuels whose emissions contribute to climate change.
Six companies bid $4.4 billion to develop wind farms acres off the coasts of New Jersey and New York in an area called the New York Bight, more brought in more money than any other energy leases ever, including those for oil and gas.
Murphy has set a target of producing 50% of the state’s electricity from clean sources by 2030, and 100% by 2050. Murphy said he would bring 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind power capacity online by 2035.
And the Biden administration set its own goal of developing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.
BOEM will take public comments on Ocean Wind from Friday to Aug. 8 before issuing a final environmental impact statement. As part of the process, there will be three virtual public hearings: 1 p.m. on July 14, 5 p.m. on July 20, and 5 p.m. on July 26. To register for the hearings or to submit comments go to https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/ocean-wind-1 beginning Friday.
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