It Is The Best Of Times, It Is The Worst Of Times For Offshore Wind In America

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On Tuesday, October 31, 2023, the Biden Administration approved a plan to install up to 176 wind turbines off the coast of Virginia. Once completed, the project will be the largest offshore wind installation in the United States. The wind farm, which is being built by Dominion Energy, will have an output of 2.6 gigawatts. President Biden has set a goal of having 30 gigawatts of offshore wind available by 2030. President Biden and New Jersey governor Phil Murphy have support offshore wind farms as a way of getting more renewable energy for Americans that will help limit global heating.

According to the New York Times,  the project is expected to provide about 900 jobs each year during the construction phase and support an estimated 1,100 annual jobs once it begins operating. “More progress and economic opportunity are on the horizon as we put to use every tool available to bring offshore wind benefits to American workers and communities nationwide,” said Ali Zaidi, the White House national climate adviser.

While dozens of offshore wind farms are being planned along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, not all of those projects are guaranteed to be built. In Massachusetts, the company behind the Commonwealth Wind project terminated its contracts with state utilities this year, citing unexpected inflation, and said it plans to rebid at higher prices.

In New York, the developers of four proposed offshore wind farms recently asked the state for more money before moving forward. New York rejected that request and it’s unclear if the projects will move ahead. Analysts at BloombergNEF now expect that just 16.4 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity will be completed by 2030, roughly half the Biden administration’s goal.

Dominion Energy recently welcomed the arrival from Germany of eight massive steel foundation posts in preparation for its $9.8 billion coastal wind project, which will be located roughly 27 miles off Virginia Beach. Construction is expected to be completed by 2026. “The delivery of the first foundations is further evidence that our Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project continues to move forward on time and on budget to provide reliable, affordable and increasingly clean energy to our customers,” Robert Blue, Dominion’s chief executive, said in a recent statement.

The administration’s environmental review found that the Virginia offshore wind project would help reduce local air pollution, but also had the potential to disrupt local fishing areas, wetlands, and whale migration routes. As part of the approval process, Dominion agreed to relocate several turbines away from known fish havens and to compensate local fisheries for any losses they might suffer.

Elizabeth Klein, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees offshore wind reviews, said her agency had consulted with state and local leaders, tribes, ocean users, industry groups and other federal agencies as part of its decision to green-light the Virginia project. “We look forward to continuing to work together to responsibly develop this clean energy resource and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come,” she said.

Local Opposition Sinks New Jersey Offshore Wind Farm

Offshore wind seems like a no brainer to most people. The sight of wind turbines gets people riled up, so plans to install them on land generate a lot of opposition from those who are worried about our way of life. They seem not to know or care that their “way of life” will be severely impacted by the droughts, forest fires, flooding, and rising sea levels associated with an overheating planet.

Nor do they much care that renewable energy will lower the amount of nasty stuff like fine particulates in the air they breathe that are responsible for a host of human health issues. The sight of those whirling blades makes them angrier with every revolution they make. “Put them anywhere except where I can see them” is the general consensus.

Winds at sea tend to be stronger and steadier than they are on land, but that is only half the story. Offshore wind turbines are typically far out of sight from land, but people still know they are there and that bothers them. It is no coincidence that much of the local opposition is being promoted by fossil fuel companies located thousands of miles away such as the oil-soaked Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Cape May Hates Offshore Wind

Officials in Cape May County are celebrating this week after Ørsted announced it is pulling the plug (metaphorically speaking) on two proposed projects — Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 — in the Atlantic Ocean about 15 miles east of the famous Jersey shore. Those officials and many residents of the county believe the wind farm would cause “catastrophic environmental damage” and could harm the shore’s tourism based economy. None of those opponents have the intellectual heft to ask themselves what will happen once their shoreline communities sink below the waves as ocean levels rise due to global heating.

During a recent online forum, several speakers strongly criticized Ørsted, as well as the state and federal agencies overseeing the wind farm’s regulatory approvals. They said the federal and state agencies involved in the permitting process made extraordinary efforts to rush the project through the regulatory process while ignoring objections from the public and elected officials. What that means is, those agencies did their due diligence and based their findings on facts, not opinions formed by watching Faux News and listening to the lies created by the Texas Public Policy Foundation that benefit from the imprimatur of authority (if any) conveyed by social media.

County attorney Michael Donohue said, “We are not crazy climate deniers. We have serious concerns for this community, for the environment and for our economy,” according to a report by OCNJ Daily. Donohue read a statement on behalf of the Cape May County Commissioners pledging their willingness to work with different levels of government for offshore wind technology if the project could be done in a “responsible and minimally detrimental way.”

However, Cape May County officials complained that their concerns about the industrialization of the ocean have repeatedly been brushed aside by state and federal regulatory agencies involved with the project, such as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

A Wall Of Wind Turbines

“If the plans of the state and federal governments come to fruition, there will be a massive corridor of thousand foot high windmills along most of the East Coast — with a large concentration of hundreds of these industrial structures off the beaches of our county,” said Leonard Desiderio, the head of the Cape May county board of supervisors. Desiderio, who also serves as the mayor of Sea Isle, asserted that the state and federal regulatory agencies “are content” to have Cape May County’s environment and economy “severely disrupted in order to build the windmills at any cost.”

“And those costs are extremely high,” he added. According to Desiderio, the wind farm projects are being subsidized by massive amounts of taxpayer money. New Jersey has already given about $1 billion in taxpayer subsidies to the wind farm industry and more may be on the way, Donahue said.

Speakers at the forum expressed alarm that Ørsted and other foreign corporations involved in the wind farm industry would be able to control millions of acres of ocean off the East Coast through leases with the U.S. government. Uh, oh. Scary “foreign corporations” talk here, people. Let’s not stop for a minute to ask why America has NO offshore wind industrial capability at all. Xenophobia is always a handy tool when the facts are against you.

It’ll Kill All The Whales!

Opposition to the wind farm among Cape May County officials has intensified following the deaths of dozens of whales and dolphins in the past year along the East Coast, including some that have washed up on beaches in Sea Isle, Wildwood Crest Strathmere, Atlantic City, and Brigantine. Ørsted’s critics, without any evidence other than innuendo spoon fed to them by fossil fuel interests, have blamed sonar mapping of the seabed — a preliminary step for construction of offshore wind farms — for disrupting the acoustic abilities of marine mammals, leading to their deaths. They must be unaware that the US Navy has been using sonar to map the ocean floor for the past 70 years.

However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the New Jersey Department of Environmental and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center say that wounds found on some of the whale carcasses indicate they were likely killed by collisions with ships. They say there is no evidence that connects the whale deaths to the wind farms.

Interestingly enough, reactionaries paid by those same fossil fuel interests promoting disinformation in Cape May county are suing the federal government over a provision that requires offshore fishing boats to pay for monitors whose job is to make sure those boats adhere to speed limits in the transit zones frequented by whales. These people want nothing more than to suppress any and all technologies that threaten their profits. If they have to talk out of both sides of their mouth to do that, they are perfectly happy to do so.

It’s All About The Money

What is really going on here is that tourists bring about $7.5 billion to communities in Cape May county every year. A survey — no doubt paid for by fossil fuel interests — found that up to 15% of tourists surveyed said they would take their tourist dollars elsewhere if those offshore wind farms get built.

Consider this. Due to the fact that the Earth is round (there are probably some politicians in Cape May county who would dispute that), anything more than 12 miles out to sea is below the horizon and invisible to the unaided eye.

Now, think about this for a minute. You are sitting on a beach in Cape May, New Jersey. Suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you see a tiny dot on the horizon 15 miles away. Do you pack up the kids and all their gear and flee?  Apparently the so-called county leaders believe that’s exactly what will happen.

Maybe Cape May county needs better leaders, ones who understand that their way of life is being threatened not by scary wind turbines but by the inexorable rise of the ocean. If significant action is not taken soon, the beach will be in Trenton, not Cape May or Tom’s River. Why would people come to Cape May after there is a 12-foot-high seawall constructed along the shoreline to hold back the Atlantic Ocean?

When the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced the completion of its environmental analysis of the Ocean Wind 1 project in May, Katharine Perry, the permit manager for Ørsted, said “The BOEM publication of the Final EIS represents the culmination of years of thoughtful and thorough environmental studies, analyses, reviews and stakeholder interaction and engagement. It reinforces that Ocean Wind 1 can and will be developed with a clear focus on protecting and preserving New Jersey’s vast natural resources.”

But because someone posted something on Fakebook, all of that research and analysis is being ignored or discredited. Think what that portends for the fate of offshore wind in America. For a thorough (and quite amusing) discussion of offshore wind, whales, and other scary things, I encourage readers to view Michael Barnard’s excellent piece from earlier this year that delves deeply into this topic and exposes the insanity being peddled by the fossil fuel crazies to preserve their hegemony over the Earth.

 


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