Summary of Presentations on Windmills for Recreational Anglers

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association December 2018 Newsletter)

On October 18th, I and about 40 other recreational anglers attended a meeting at the Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park to hear presentations on windmills by Zach Cockrun, Director of Conservation Partnerships for the National Federation of Wildlife, and Captain Dave Monti, a Rhode Island charter captain who is very familiar with the operation of the five windmills currently in place at Block Island. These presentations, unlike the two others I attended on July 9th and September 30th, were geared just for recreational anglers so that we could better understand this huge windmill project that will be in New Jersey’s waters in the near future.

I took notes of this meeting and after a few days, I sent an email to Zach Cockrun asking him questions as follow up to it. Below are the questions and answers exactly as written by me and as answered by him. Nothing was edited for publication.

Question - On one of the boards, there was a statement that anglers have guaranteed access to the windmills. Who is the guarantor for this access? Does it cover all of the windmills since there are a number of developers for different windmill locations? Will we see a signed document to this effect?

Answer - Every developer we have spoken to has said they will not restrict access. As far as I know most are on public record, but it is a good reason to show up to hearings to get them to say it on record. BOEM and the Coast Guard have also said they don’t have plans to enforce access restrictions outside of construction.

We’re trying to find the best mechanism for getting it in writing, but would also be happy to look into meeting with NJ officials to express access concerns.

Question - “Nothing has been set in stone” is the phrase we have been hearing, but is the scallop/clammer sites still set to have windmills on them? If this happens, not only will the commercial fishermen be put out of business, but we will be also destroying prime areas that produce this food source we consume. The ocean is vast and can these windmills be moved to alternate locations? Given the talk about compensation to commercial anglers, it seems to me that the decision to put windmills on these sites has already been determined. Is that true?

Answer - Siting the windmills is dependent on a variety of factors – bottom type, navigation, wildlife impacts, and avoiding, when possible, fishing grounds. Conflicts with scallopers is definitely still a possibility despite efforts to minimize those conflicts. In the case of the Vineyard Wind project in MA, the developer worked with scallopers to change the layout of the wind farm to improve their ability to operate in the area. They are reducing the number of turbines, and changing the direction of the arrangement as well as adding a 4 mile transit zone through the middle. Finally, they are likely to increase the distance to 1 mile between each turbine to help gear move through the wind farm area.

Even all of that said, mitigation will likely be necessary as there will still be impacts. However, I think it is very unlikely that even numerous wind farms lead to the end of this industry.

Question - These questions are more for confirmation purposes – there will be about 400 windmills deployed, they will be about 460 feet in height, and once they are all deployed, how many homes are they expected to illuminate? Also, will the energy produced by them be solely used by New Jersey residents or will the energy be sent to other states? Also, what will be the length/width of one blade?

Answer - A 3,500 mw commitment is between about 350 and 580 turbines, depending on technology. Current offshore wind turbines are 6MW each and would need more. I think it is more likely by the time the first wind farm in NJ gets developed that turbines will be 8-10MW and require fewer.

They are approximately 300 feet to the turbine hub. A blade is Approximately 225 feet long. So a blade at the peak will make the entire structure 525 feet tall.

3,500 mws of offshore wind power will power at least 1.1 million homes. This is a conservative estimate. The power is being purchased by New Jersey to meet its renewable energy goals.

Question - The windmills are expected to supply 3,500 megawatts by 2030. Is this four times the future energy needs of our state as I have written in my notes?

Answer - The total potential generation of offshore wind from Maine to North Carolina could meet 4 times the country’s energy demand. It is not realistic that we would build this much offshore windmills, but we say it to point out how big the potential for energy generation is. Only a fraction of that can meet the needs of coastal states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Question - What is the total area of the ocean that these windmills will cover including the spaces between them? In regard to this spacing, will it be enough for commercial boats to navigate through them?

Answer - The development farthest along will be between .8 and 1 nm apart – more than enough for commercial traffic. They also are including a transit lane 4 miles wild for ships moving through the wind farm.

By that standard, a 100 turbine farm, which would be an approximately 800mw project powering 250,000 homes would likely be around 100 square miles (not including transit zone).

Question - Captain Monti indicated that the 5 windmills by Block Island are not disrupting fish migrations etc. But his chart also indicated that the effects of multiple windmills (400) are not known. This is an issue of concern since anchoring this number of windmills will produce noise, the rotating blades will make noise, the cables will give off electro-magnetic effects, and the installation of the cables disrupting the ocean bottom will all have a negative effect on whales and other fishery migration patterns and also their habitats. Placing cables on the ocean floor for so many windmills will really tear it up and most certainly have a negative effect on a multitude of fisheries. Migrating birds, with this number of windmills, can also have the potential of being killed by them. Is there an environmental impact study in progress or planned in the near future to address these issues?

Answer - Yes. Each project will have to undergo an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Once produced, we can comment on the EIS to recommend other areas of study if things were missed. One of the key elements of an EIS is it includes what are known as “cumulative impacts” – the idea is to assess impacts of the entire industry. So the first project will assess impacts of the planned 100 turbines. The second project will assess impacts of that project PLUS any existing projects. The idea is that as we slowly build these out over the next few years, we will learn more in ways that could inform how, when and where we build specific projects.

Question - We all know the corrosive nature of salt on everything and windmills will be exposed to salt 24/7. These windmills are supposed to have a lifetime of 25 years and the corrosive nature of salt can significantly reduce this lifetime. I remember you saying the developers must be bonded so that they can absorb financial losses due to this type of problem. Will this bond not only cover losses for unexpected maintenance issues, refurbishments of blades or even a total loss due to destruction by a storm like Sandy?

Answer - The engineering behind these turbines is incredible. They are built to withstand direct hits from category III hurricanes – much bigger than Sandy. The 25 year lifetime is a reasonable estimate. We just witnessed the first decommissioning of a wind farm that was built in 2001 in the UK. The firm decommissioned them because the units were not big enough to justify ongoing maintenance costs. That makes sense because they were first generation technology.

The bond wouldn’t cover maintenance issues, but these firms know how to run wind farms. Orsted, one of the lease holders in NJ operates more than 1000 turbines across the world and knows what the maintenance costs will be for these farms.

FYI - At another windmill meeting on September 20th in Long Branch, BOEM representatives seemed to be receptive to having developers in the process of installing windmills to remove phantom cables lying on the ocean floor that have broken off commercial boats and are a big nuisance to all ocean vessels. You may want to consider this task as part of the Scope of Work for future developers.

Answer - We’ certainly be willing to look into this!

In regard to meeting with New Jersey officials as Zach indicated in his answer to me about guaranteed access, I plan to contact individuals in our recreational community who can assist us in trying to have this access guaranteed.

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