Ocean Wind 1, one of two companies trying to build massive wind farms off the coast of New Jersey, will hold a virtual public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday. The discussion will center on a proposal to carry the energy through underground cables running under the Ocean City beach at 35th Street, and then snaking through the island out to Route 9 to connect to a land-based power grid.
The hearing was originally scheduled to be in person on Oct. 3 in Ocean City but was canceled due to a coastal flood warning issued by the National Weather Service.
The underground cable plan has drawn the opposition of the City of Ocean City, nine other Cape May County towns, and Cape May County itself.
Lawyers for the municipalities and the county appeared Thursday at a virtual hearing before the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) on a request by Ocean Wind to bypass the local elected authorities to gain access to the land owned by Cape May County.
Ocean Wind is 75% owned by the Danish company Orsted and 25% owned by New Jersey’s PSE&G utility.
Gregory Eisenstark, the lawyer for Ocean Wind, argued Thursday that the cables, while requiring horizontal directional drilling near the beach, are no different from any other underground cables used for decades without issue. The cables will run from the 35th Street beach out along Roosevelt Boulevard and along Route 9 to the site of the old B.L. England power plant in Beesley’s Point.
“We need to move forward now,” he told the board.
Orsted’s offshore wind farms are expected to have 98 wind turbines installed about 15 miles off the coast. A second project, from the Atlantic Shores company, projects about 111 wind turbines offshore, in and around Brigantine and Long Beach Island.
The projects have gained momentum as federal and state policy shifted to encourage alternative energy sources.
But on the local level, residents and local elected officials have expressed concerns about the impact of the wind turbines on everything from the commercial fishing industry to sight lines to boat navigation.
At a recent meeting in Brigantine, 100 people attended to express concerns about the project, including whether the 1,200-foot windmills would mar views from the beach. A Facebook group, “Protect our Coast NJ,” has also been established by those who believe the projects will create as many issues as they will solve.
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Lawyer Michael Donohue, representing Cape May County, told the BPU that the county preferred another route along the Great Egg Harbor Inlet, an alternative that Ocean Wind has rejected as being more complicated.
He asked the BPU not to allow Ocean Wind to bypass coming to an agreement with the towns themselves. The BPU was given the authority to do just that by the Legislature, however, and has already ruled in favor of Ocean Wind with respect to the specific land controlled by Ocean City.
Donohue said that the company has not answered concerns about the potential impact of the project on fisheries or tourism, and that the proposed route has not yet been vetted by environmental officials.
Dorothy McCrosson, the Ocean City solicitor, said, “The Ocean City public has a right to know why these alternate routes have been dismissed. Ocean Wind is just pursuing the easiest and least expensive route to the detriment of the public.”
Paul Baldini, representing nine beach towns in Cape May County, said the towns were looking for “a way to deliver energy that does not run through the beaches of Ocean City or county roads.” He said the company was taking a “cavalier approach to the taking of sensitive land.”
Those who want to participate Monday evening may access the hearing at https://bit.ly/ocw1-ga-pub-hearing (if manually typing, use lowercase text), or go to https://zoom.us/join and enter Webinar ID: 845 6140 0881; Passcode: 407304.
Written comments must be submitted by Nov. 28 to Tom Suthard at Orsted Ocean Wind 1, 600 Atlantic Ave., Suite 2, Atlantic City, N.J. 08401 or emailed to Info@OceanWind.com.
The full application of Ocean Wind for the rights to run the underground cable to export the wind energy can be found here.
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