In line with the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to expanding offshore wind energy capacity, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced the availability of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for two New Jersey offshore wind projects opposed by some Republicans.
The projects, if approved, have the potential to generate around 2,800 megawatts (MW) of electricity, which is enough to power nearly 1 million homes.
The proposed wind energy facilities, known as the Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Project 1 and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Project 2, were jointly submitted by Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, a 50/50 joint venture between Shell and EDF Renewables. Collectively referred to as the Atlantic Shores South Wind Project, the proposal includes up to 200 wind turbines and up to ten offshore substations with subsea transmission cables that will connect to the New Jersey coastline, potentially at Atlantic City, Sea Girt, or both. The lease area covers approximately 102,124 acres and is located about 8.7 statute miles offshore New Jersey at its nearest point.
BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein expressed the agency’s commitment to collaborating with various stakeholders, including Tribal nations, government agencies, lessees, environmental organizations, local communities, and ocean users. “By working together, we can build a strong, enduring offshore wind industry that ensures American communities across the nation benefit from good paying jobs and clean, reliable, domestic renewable energy,” said Klein.
While BOEM moves forward with the environmental review process, there have been growing calls from Republican lawmakers to temporarily halt offshore wind production following a series of whale deaths in recent months, with some attributing them to preliminary offshore wind activities, namely acoustic survey work, despite having no evidence connecting the two.
In an op-ed, Atlantic Shores’ CEO Joris Veldhoven said misinformation about dead whales shouldn’t distract from the need for offshore wind farms.
“These sad whale deaths are extremely disturbing, but it is simply inaccurate to point the finger at offshore wind activities when there is no evidence to indicate a correlation…, let alone a causal relationship between regular ocean seabed surveys and whale strandings,” Veldhoven writes.
New Jersey is among a handful of states leading the charge on offshore wind development, setting an ambitious goal of generating 11 gigawatts (GW) of electricity from offshore wind energy by 2040 as part of a Master Plan to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. “This means 30 percent of offshore wind energy produced on the East Coast will be from New Jersey,” according to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA).
New Jersey is also developing the New Jersey Wind Port, a purpose-built project that will help position New Jersey as a hub for the U.S. offshore wind industry and support up to 1,500 manufacturing, assembly, and operations jobs. The project broke ground in 2021, putting it on a path of becoming the first purpose-built offshore wind port in the country.
Project 1 of the Atlantic Shores South Wind Project has already been awarded an Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Certificate by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, allowing for the development of 1,510 MW of offshore wind power. Atlantic Shores is also seeking a second power offtake agreement for Project 2, which aims to generate 1,327 MW, enough to power approximately 464,450 homes.
The draft EIS for the Atlantic Shores South Wind Project is now available on the BOEM website. The notice of availability will be published in the Federal Register on May 19, 2023, officially initiating a 45-day public comment period.
BOEM will carefully consider the findings of the final EIS when making a decision on approving the Atlantic Shores South Wind Project. If approved, the agency will also determine the necessary mitigation measures to ensure the project’s environmental impact is minimized.
As part of the public engagement process, BOEM will conduct two in-person public meetings and two virtual meetings. These meetings will provide opportunities for the public to gain a deeper understanding of the review process, the EIS timeline, the potential impacts of the proposed projects, and proposals to mitigate these impacts. Participants will have the chance to offer their comments on the draft EIS during these meetings.
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