Outrage against offshore wind starts to blow in
After $4.4 billion auction, companies get a taste of protests to come,
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)
In January, during the lead-up to a February/March auction for six seabed tracts in the New York/New Jersey Bight that raised a total of $4.4 from offshore wind companies, we reported on current and potential local opposition to the project. There were conservationists worried about sea life, the fishing industry fretting over scallops, and coastal residents concerned about the visual impact. We also pointed out that it had taken about 10 years for U.S.’s first major offshore project, Massachusetts’ Vineyard Wind, to get full permitting, which happened last May.
Well, we just got a taste of what the going will be like for the companies who bought the Bight rights when online hearings were heard in Ocean City, N.J., on Monday evening about one of the projects, which is a joint venture between Danish wind giant Ørsted (DNNGY) and local utility company PSEG (PEG). At issue in particular was the companies’ plan to bring a power line ashore in Ocean City and connect to the power grid at two former power plants.
According to the AP, some on the call claimed climate change either isn’t real or isn’t caused by human activity. Others invoked the Almighty.
“Go up to the boardwalk, and look out at the ocean,” said meeting participant Nathan Brightbill. “God created that. God doesn’t want us to put tons of stinking windmills out there. It’s immoral.”
The meeting was supposed to be limited to discussion about the diversion of less than an acre of publicly owned land to bring the cable ashore in the southern part of the barrier island. But it wasn’t.
Some raised concerns about potential effects from electromagnetic fields they believe will be emitted from the cable. Other locals reinforced concerns about the visual impact.
“These will be totally visible from our shoreline,” said Cathy Ingham, referring to the giant turbines. “If they were 50 miles offshore and not visible, it would be less of an impact. We the people should have had a vote on this project, and our vote would have been ‘no.’”
Ingham was referring to New Jersey lawmakers having enacted a measure last year stripping local communities of the ability to block power lines from offshore wind projects coming ashore in their towns. In addition, federal authorities have done much to assuage fishing interests.
“You’re coming in and taking land that belongs to the people of Ocean City, and doing what you want with it,” added another resident, Tony Butch. “It’s happening too fast, too quick.”
With the state law in place to overcome local opposition, the residents’ complaints will have fewer teeth, but get ready for a bunch of noisy battles.