NEW JERSEY – Clean Ocean Action members, fellow environmentalists and guests got a glimpse at a future powered by clean renewable energy recently.
COA hosted a July 22 webinar that was open to the public and is available to be watched on their website, cleanoceanaction.org.
The environmental organization which promotes climate and clean energy goals addressed the topic of offshore wind as a prominent option.
“Sea level rise, warming seas and ocean acidification is why reducing climate change formation is critically important issue for Clean Ocean Action and a priority. The number one solution is to ramp up efforts to stop using fossil fuels. Achieving this goal is multi-faceted but it begins with each one of us reducing our own use of fossil fuels,” the group’s executive director, Cindy Zipf said.
She added that the solution also means utilizing renewable energy sources which includes offshore wind energy. This is the use of wind farms constructed in bodies of water, usually the ocean, to utilize wind energy to generate electricity.
Most offshore wind farms employ fixed-foundation wind turbines in relatively shallow water. As of this year, floating wind turbines for deeper waters are in the early phases of development. The total worldwide offshore wind power capacity at the close of 2018 was 23.1 gigawatt. The costs of offshore wind power has generally been higher than that of onshore wind generation but these costs have been decreasing greatly in recent years to $78/megawatt last year.
COA Advocacy Campaign Manager Kari Martin introduced the webinar’s presenter, Clean Ocean Action Policy Attorney Peter Blair, who gave an overview of how offshore wind works, its feasibility, potential future and the environmental concerns it presented.
Martin noted that the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities held a virtual public meeting on Aug. 3 to discuss a draft of the state’s offshore wind strategic plan.
Members of the public can send written comments on the draft by 5 p.m. on Aug. 17, regardless of whether they participate in the public meeting. Questions about the draft and how to register for the public meeting can be directed to the NJBPU by e-mailing Osw.Stakeholder@bpu.nj.gov.
“The purpose of this webinar is to give a fair and accurate overview of offshore wind development in the New Jersey/New York region,” Blair said adding that COA, an environmental non-profit organization founded in 1984, felt that the new industry needed more focus as it pertains to renewable energy needs, environmental concerns and other details to its development future.
“We are expecting to see 22,900 megawatts of off shore wind development by 2035 with New Jersey and New York projects accounting for 70 percent of this,” he said.
“Climate change is real and represents a constant threat especially to coastal states like New York and New Jersey,” Blair said, adding that climate change impacts that have already been recorded include temperature rises. “New Jersey’s temperature has increased by three degrees in the last century and the warming is expected to continue if not accelerate.”
Increased precipitation is another result of climate change. “Overall more wet weather as well as stronger and more frequent extreme weather which will increase coastal flooding and dramatically change our eco system,” Blair said.
“Sea level rise is happening more rapidly in New Jersey than anywhere else in the U.S. The sea level is expected to rise by 1.8 feet by 2030, 2.1 feet by 2050, potentially 6.3 feet by 2100.”
The ocean’s acidification, which is a term to describe the PH value of the ocean, is another problem. “The ocean is responsible for absorbing roughly 70% of our carbon and as we increase our carbon output our ocean has increased its intake which has drastically affected the environment.”
He noted that this has shown a “depletion of coral reefs as well as significant harm to shellfish population which is something of significant concern to the state of New Jersey as we rank second in economic dependence on shell mollusks in the United States.”
Blair stressed that to address the climate change crisis a shift to renewable energy is required and to stop fossil fuel use. Off shore wind is a high capacity factor in large scale ability and has other attractable factors as an energy producing resource.
He noted that the state of New Jersey has been “aggressive with addressing its climate change response goals as was evident in the Global Warming Response Act which states that the state must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% of its greenhouse gases below 2006 levels and the state’s Energy Master Plan states New Jersey must achieve 100% clean energy by 2050.”
Blair showed a break down of the state’s energy grid power system which showed natural gas more dominant in the state and renewable energy production was “significantly lagging and the reason for that is we don’t have the space to build large scale renewable generation on shore.”
He showed solar farms and the mega watt capacities in various corners of the state. “Off shore wind has a much higher scale value.”
However, offshore wind comes with its own environmental issues, he said. It impacts marine life, changes habitat, and affects commercial and recreational fishing.
Blair noted four different sub headings of environmental concerns in the development of off shore wind the being marine life and wildlife including habitat changes, preexisting ocean uses such as commercial and recreational fishing, the impacts to the coast and the cumulative impacts “what does that mean not just by a project by project basis but what will it mean when we have multiple off shore projects in our waters.”
Clean Ocean Action’s policy regarding future off shore wind development plans “is to be critical yet fair in our evaluations from a climate perspective but we cannot ignore the legitimate concerns for this new coastally developed industry. We hold ourselves to a high level of accountability and we expect the same from other states and the state of New Jersey as well as the off shore wind developers,” Blair said.