Let’s Put Up Windmills and See What Happens Next!

Let’s Put the Windmills Up and See What Happens Next!

An Asbury Park Press article dated on March 28th showed a headline – New Jersey allots $3.7 Million to study offshore wind’s impact on environment. 

This new award was announced by NJ Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) Christine Guhl-Sadovy, to fund the State’s Offshore Wind Research and Monitoring Initiative.  

This initiative supports projects that will document the distribution of whales, dolphins, and seals and the turbines impacts on animals, study fish and crustaceans off the New Jersey shore; and study the populations and impacts on endangered shorebirds, such as the red knot, piping clover and roseate tern. Other research projects include:

Rutgers receiving $97, 462 to study how the turbine bases affect “Cold Pool”, a bottom layer of ocean that influences thermal layers within the Atlantic Ocean. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will receive $47, 383 to conduct aerial surveys of whales, particularly the North Atlantic Right Whale. Rutgers will also receive $929, 593 to tag and study humpback and fin whales in and around the wind lease areas.  Various agencies will divide $1.3 million to track bird and bat migration off the NJ coast. The Coonamessett Farm Foundation will receive $1 million to study various species of sea turtles that migrate off the New Jersey shore.

This initiative can best be summarized as “too little and too late!”

The wind developer Orsted was scheduled to have their two windmill projects in place either in 2024 or 2025, but budgetary problems caused them to stop their implementation. The Murphy administration is moving fast to have other windmill farms up and running as soon as possible.

Windmill projects worth hundreds of billion dollars have not received the environmental review that they should have received BEFORE they are even been considered to be placed off our coast! Windmills that are 850 feet tall (half the size of New York’s Freedom Tower) and their blades several hundred feet long will surely have an environmental impact on our ocean and its sea animals. Windmills and their rotating blades will produce noise. Whales, dolphins and other sea creatures have very sensitive hearing and this noise may disrupt their migration patterns. Various agencies will divide 1.3 million dollars to track bird and bat migrations off New Jersey’s coast. It is a known fact that a large number of birds and bats will die flying through these huge windmills. Why is this study being done only now when it should have been completed before any wind farms received approval to operate from our state and BPU?  

Rutgers University will receive only $97, 462 to study how the turbine bases affect “Cold Pool” which is a huge band of cold bottom water in the ocean extending from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras that is fed by freshwater input from multiple rivers and estuaries. This area experiences one of the largest summer to winter temperature changes of any part of the ocean around the world. Cold Pool has impacts on shellfish, butterfish, pelagic and other fish. The Science Center for Marine Fisheries released a report on July 28, 2020 that windmill projects may have a disruptive effect on Cold Pool and further study is needed to ensure that this does not occur.  Cold Pool plays a big part in our ocean ecosystem and allocating only $97, 462 for Rutgers to study this complex issue can only result in a study that is cursory at best. Again, going forward with wind farms without knowing the full effects that they may have on Cold Pool can result in catastrophic damage to our ocean and its fisheries. 

There are other issues that this grant money from BPU and the NJ DEP does not address and they include but are not limited to:  damaging the ocean floor to install the huge number of cables that have to be buried at 6 feet, and the electromagnetic effects given off from the cables that can change migration of fish and sea animals. Radar problems can be affected by windmills and collisions may result with cargo ships and the many windmills that will be placed by the busy New York Bight location. Collisions like the bridge in Baltimore can occur that can shut down access to our port facilities.

A new issue has emerged with the placement of windmills that are 30 miles or more from shore. Earlier this year, NJ BPU approved more ratepayer subsidies going to a pair of developers (Attentive Energy & Leading Light Wind) to build windmills 40 miles from shore off the southern Ocean County coast and the other east of Atlantic City. When windmills are placed that far from shore, the cables connecting power from them cannot be transmitted unless the cables are converted from DC power to AC power. The conversion process from DC to AC generates heat as a byproduct and the systems require cooling to protect the equipment at the substation from damage and breakdown. According to the Bureau of Energy Management (BOEM), “Cooling these systems using current technology requires open loop seawater systems. Potential effects from using the cooling systems include the discharge of heated water, use of chemicals, and trapping of fish larvae”. How this heated water with chemicals in it will affect the ocean water around the substation should be evaluated for environmental impacts before these two wind farms are allowed to be implemented.

Without adequate environmental review, windmills projects are on track to be implemented without full knowledge of their impact on our ocean and the sea life that dwell in it. On that basis, they are going to be put up and then we will find out what happens next to our environment, Is that anyway to manage the future of our oceans and the abundant source of food that it feeds us?    

(Asbury Park Press, March 28. 2024)

(The Fisherman, April 2024 Edition)

John Toth – NJOA

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