The draft of a two-year research project led by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) shows minimal environmental impact would occur at sites proposed for several wind energy projects off the coast of New Jersey.
Designed by scientists from the DEP, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the completed study is expected to help identify optimum sites off the New Jersey coast for wind energy projects that would have the least impact on the environment.
The draft of the final report shows there would be negligible impacts to bird, fish and marine mammal life caused by wind turbines, which could be located from 3 to 20 miles out to sea, from Barnegat Bay to Hereford Inlet off the coast of Atlantic, Ocean and Cape May counties.
The preliminary findings of the $7 million study, performed by DEP contractor Geo-Marine Inc., were released at the DEP headquarters in Trenton, N.J. Key stakeholders involved with wind energy – including environmentalists, industry representatives and public officials – were present.
The study area included 75 miles of coastal area from Seaside Park to North Wildwood, and explored approximately 1,360 square nautical miles. It looked at the abundance, distribution and migratory patterns of avian species, fish, marine mammals and sea turtles. It factored in shipping lanes, pipelines, tug and barge transit routes, and undersea utility lines, while mapping artificial reefs, commercial and recreational fishing areas, and marine protected areas.
According to the DEP, the information generated can be used to support the evaluation of a pilot turbine project proposed by Fisherman's Energy that would be located about three miles off the coast, as well as three lease areas approved by the federal government for future meteorological studies to be done by three private companies at sites eight miles, 16 to 18 miles, and 20 miles off the coast.
The final report is expected to be completed and released in July.