A plan to bury power cables for an offshore wind project under a prime beach in a popular New Jersey Shore town is set to go ahead despite objections from local government and residents.
Ørsted, the Danish company developing the offshore wind project, is applying for an easement from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to place cables under land owned by Ocean City that includes a beachfront with luxury homes, some valued at millions of dollars.
Ocean City officials said they oppose a 2021 New Jersey law that gives wind energy projects approved by the state’s Utilities Board the power to locate, construct, deploy Use and maintain the cables and associated terrestrial infrastructure as long as they operate underground on public property, including streets.
“Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian and City Council oppose Ocean Wind’s application to the NJ BPU and reserve the right to challenge any approval granted,” according to a statement provided to NJ Advance Media. “It is still early in the review of Ocean Wind’s operating plan and its environmental impact, and whether a city ultimately supports or opposes the project is not a good precedent.”
The BPU state has not yet granted the easement request. Ørsted must also submit environmental impact statements to federal and state regulators for approval of the entire project.
Governor Phil Murphy has pledged to bring 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind online by 2035. It’s a key part of his energy master plan, which calls for the state to get 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030 and 100% by 2050. The effort is intended to wean the state off fossil fuels and reduce New Jersey’s contributions to climate change.
Ocean Wind 1 is the first of three state-approved wind farms, which will lead the country in offshore wind development when it becomes operational in 2024.
The project – a landmark for Danish wind giant Ørsted – involves the construction of 98 900ft-tall wind turbines 15 miles off the coast. Power cables will land under the beach and streets of Ocean City to the closed BL England power station nearly 7 miles away in Upper Township. The facility was once a coal-fired power plant.
“This filing of the (easement) petition is to maintain the project schedule to meet critical permitting milestones and ensure that construction and operations can begin on time, so that we can ensure that the commitments we have made to New Jersey are obligated,” according to a statement from Ørsted. . “The petition process was recently implemented by the state to help New Jersey meet its clean energy goals.
“We continue to engage with local authorities as this petition progresses and aim to broker agreements with local communities that facilitate offshore wind development and benefit all New Jerseyans.”
Reaction to the plan at a recent public hearing was largely negative.
“It looks like it’s almost a done deal,” local resident Tim Flynn told a virtual hearing Ørsted held last month. “It looks like it’s being pushed on Ocean City. I am very opposed to this whole project. I don’t think this will be the end of people protesting against this project.
Ørsted is requesting easements on three city-owned parcels of land, totaling just under an acre. All lots will remain intact on the surface, the company said in public filings.
Ørsted, who is developing the project with PSEG, said the turbine power lines will be buried 50ft below the beach and streets using a horizontal directional drill. There will be construction and excavation along 35th Street to Roosevelt Boulevard within the public right-of-way. The company specifies that the work will not be carried out during the summer tourist season and that the streets will be redone at its expense.
“(It) would seriously affect the ability of local governments to exercise autonomy relative to the offshore wind farm project by eliminating good faith negotiations, which clearly puts Ørsted, a foreign entity, in an advantageous negotiating position at the expense of coastal municipalities,” Ocean City Council said in a resolution passed last year.
General information previously reported by NJ.com is included in this report. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Bill Duhart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.