A subsidiary of one of Europe’s largest oil companies and energy providers has submitted a proposal to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities that would place wind turbines 42 miles off Seaside Heights, the company announced this week, prompting an anti-turbine rally to be planned for the weekend in Point Pleasant Beach.
Attentive Energy, a subsidiary of French energy giant Total, announced it had responded to a request from the state BPU, which solicited such proposals over the summer. This week, Attentive said its project would be built in partnership with Corio Generation, a U.K.-based offshore wind development firm that, at present, has no offices in the United States, according to its website.
The announcement did not specify the number of turbines being proposed or the exact coordinates of their location, but said if awarded permission to develop the swath of ocean, is expected to power more than 600,000 homes. The company also promised $12 billion in “economic activity state-wide, demonstrating our commitment to New Jersey’s mission of advancing renewable energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and forging a local industry.”
The turbines would generate 1,342 megawatts of energy. For comparative purposes, the now-shuttered Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township generated 636 megawatts of energy from its boiling water reactor.
The 42 mile distance from shore would likely place the turbines outside of sight lines from the beach, depending on their exact location. Regardless of a particular day’s weather conditions, however, they would not be remotely as visible as similar projects in development off the Jersey Shore. Long Beach Island residents, for more than a year, have been standing in opposition to turbines that would be placed 15 miles off its beaches, asking for them to be moved 35 miles offshore so they would be less visible.
A spokesman for Attentive told the Associated Press that the company declined to bid on sites closer to shore since winds are stronger farther from land. The lack of obstructed views from beaches is also likely to remove one potential point of contention for local residents, who have argued offshore turbines create a visible industrialized coastline which could negatively affect the attractiveness of beaches and local tourism.
The primary source of opposition to offshore wind turbines being developed off New Jersey is their potential effect on marine mammals. Over the past winter, a number of strandings of dead mammals, including some endangered species, angered environmentalists and local residents who blamed the regular wash-ups of whale and dolphin carcasses on soundings being conducted for existing projects. Indeed, the website MarineTraffic, which provides live data on ship movements, showed a sounding vessel almost directly off Seaside Heights last week before it docked inside Manasquan Inlet.
The federal government, as well as state environmental agencies, have said it is unlikely the soundings have anything to do with the marine mammal deaths, as the animals would have to swim directly into the path of a thin sound wave. Still, U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith (R-4) and U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2) have both called for turbine development and soundings to be stopped until studies can be conducted regarding their potential effects on marine mammals. The National Marine Fisheries Service has acknowledged it has granted permits to offshore wind developers to “take” – meaning to either harm or kill – thousands of animals as part of the research and development of the turbine sites.
Some opponents of the projects have also questioned whether the turbines would stand up to harsh weather in the North Atlantic, including hurricanes.
Smith, at a hearing over the summer, centered questioning of federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Liz Klein whether the Biden Administration had “fully examined if offshore wind turbines could sustain a Category 2 or Category 3 hurricane, but she was not able to address my concerns,” a statement from Smith’s office said.
In June, the federal Government Accountability Office — an independent congressional watchdog — agreed to launch an investigation into the impacts of New Jersey’s offshore wind development on the environment, the fishing industry, military operations, navigational safety and more, Smith said. Federal and state agencies are also investigating potential funding to establish subsidies for commercial fishermen who say they would lose prime grounds since their nets and scallop draggers may not be able to operate around the obstacles on the ocean floor.
Attentive said the project, dubbed “Attentive Energy Two,” would “enhance the quality of life for New Jersey residents,” though a press statement did not articulate the specific number of local jobs that would be produced by the effort. It only stated that it would produce “15,000 job-years for New Jersey residents.” The announcement also touted emissions reductions “equivalent to removing 10 percent of cars from New Jersey roads or 1.3 million tons of carbon removed annually.”
The company did note, however, that Attentive Energy has signed an agreement with five local unions to develop a Project Labor Agreement, further committing that the project’s construction work will be performed by union labor, potentially adding an additional political element to the proposal.
“Offshore wind represents an incredible opportunity for the people of New Jersey, and we are deeply proud to be a part of the Attentive Energy Two project,” said Eric Thumma, U.S. Head for Corio Generation. “We believe the project will not only bring affordable, clean energy to the Garden State, but also create good green jobs and ensure a lasting positive legacy for communities here for decades to come. We are fully confident that offshore wind will play a major role in the future of the U.S. economy, and we are delighted that New Jersey will be at the forefront of this new growth sector, helping to power America forward.”
A separate proposal by a German energy firm would place another turbine site 37 miles off Long Beach Island in southern Ocean County.
The announcement has led to the organizing of two rallies against offshore turbine development this weekend, which are expected to be led by the two congressmen. Sponsored by the Ocean County Federation of Republican Women, the local rally featuring Smith will be held near Jenkinson’s Aquarium on the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach. The rally is slated to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 and will include, as speakers, local environmentalists and Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra, who is running on the Republican ticket to represent northern Ocean County in the state General Assembly.