--Photo by Gary Norton, Department of Energy
Meeting New Jersey’s Climate Crisis with Offshore Wind
Governor Murphy plans to make the New Jersey Coast a center for the development of wind energy. He has made a pledge to create 7,500 megawatts of energy from offshore wind – enough to power 3.2 million homes. A great deal of activity has taken place in just the last two years. There are currently three offshore wind projects slated to be built off the coast of NJ with more to come! Ocean Wind I and II, being built by the Danish company Ørsted, will extend from the area off the coast of Atlantic City down to Cape May. Another project, built by Atlantic Shores, will extend from Barnegat Light to off the coast of Atlantic City. Combined, these projects will supply enough energy to power over a million NJ homes.
Ensuring Equitable and Sustainable Offshore Wind Solutions
The New Jersey Chapter’s Offshore Wind Committee promotes the socially and environmentally responsible execution of proposed offshore wind generation projects off of the NJ coast. It is our mission to advocate for the best interests of the ocean, wildlife and local economies during the green energy transition. We work alongside local and regional environmental, community-based groups, meeting with offshore wind companies to ensure that the interests of the affected communities are heard and issues with marine and wildlife are addressed. We are dedicated to acting in accordance with the Sierra Club’s principles of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
To achieve these goals we are working to develop educational materials for the public. We are building strong, resilient working relationships with other community groups and organizations to ensure that we are progressing into a green future in a way that lets all voices be heard. We will build our collaboration from the ideals we share, namely, to protect and serve our communities and our environment. We will collaborate using our shared knowledge, expertise, resources and collective opportunities.
Bring High-paying Green Jobs to New Jersey
New Jersey is one of the fastest-warming states in the country and has already experienced sea level rise at a significantly higher rate than the rest of the East Coast. Generating power from offshore wind offers an opportunity for NJ to be a leader in tackling the climate crisis while creating thousands of safe, high paying jobs across the State, especially in areas along our shore that have seasonal economies. Offshore wind jobs often offer high salaries, training and good benefits. Wind generation also means job generation, with the continual need for maintenance, on-shore facilities, and enhancements to the energy grid and infrastructure even after construction of the wind farms is completed. Offshore wind farms may also boost tourism, which would further benefit local NJ economies. We want to make sure that there is a just transition to the new green economy: that no one is left behind.
Benefits of Offshore Wind to the Environment
Climate change is causing widespread changes in our oceans, and destroying the homes of marine life. In contrast, decades of studies show that marine life actually benefits from offshore wind facilities. Turbines serve as artificial reefs for marine life, which in turn attract other marine species. The resulting abundance of fish can be extremely beneficial for larger marine life like whales, dolphins and sharks, as well as for the fishing industry. New Jersey’s current offshore wind plans incorporate safety measures and construction restrictions that benefit marine life and go beyond what is already required by law. For example, our committee worked with Ørsted to incorporate “bubble curtains” around the turbines which will further protect whales. For marine life, the climate crisis is well underway and we owe it to them to act.
Offshore Wind and Birds
It is known that turbines located within the migratory paths of birds present a collision risk. The NJ coastline is part of the Atlantic Flyway, a major north-south path for migratory birds in North America. A number of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, are working to ensure that offshore wind turbines cause minimal bird impacts.
Studies have found that most birds live or migrate within three miles of the shore, and that there are minimal bird impacts at 15 miles. The original sites for offshore wind development in NJ were only three miles offshore. Environmental groups pressured the Murphy administration to site NJ’s wind turbines 12-15 miles offshore, which is the current plan. Birders may feel better to know that New Jersey Audubon is part of the coalition of groups in support of current plans for offshore wind in New Jersey.
Sourcing some of our energy from wind is essential if we want to transition from a fossil fuel economy. Climate change is having a devastating effect on bird populations. Since the 1970s, the U.S. and Canada have lost three billion birds due to climate change. The National Audubon Society predicts that we risk extinction of two thirds of North America’s birds due to global temperature rise. Birds are an important part of our ecosystem, controlling pests, pollinating flowers and spreading seeds to regenerate forests and plant life.
To join us or find out more about the work of the Offshore Wind Committee, contact our committee chair, Denise Brush, at email@example.com.