With New Offshore Wind Development, New Jersey Funds Environmental Studies

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The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) are awarding funding for studies to provide enhanced scientific information on the impacts of offshore wind energy development off New Jersey’s coastline, as well as the state’s entry into a regional offshore wind science collaborative. The agencies will release a request for proposals soon.

“This is an exciting time for the development offshore wind energy, a vital component of our work to mitigate and respond to the worsening impacts of climate change,” states Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette. “As the stewards of our vibrant coastal and ocean resources, my colleagues and I at the Department of Environmental Protection are committed to the continuing pursuit of research and monitoring initiatives that will help us to ensure the responsible development of offshore wind facilities and their long-term maintenance and operation.”

These actions, identified as priorities by a diverse group of stakeholders, are the first funded through the Offshore Wind Research & Monitoring Initiative (RMI). This collaborative effort of the DEP and BPU is working to coordinate and expand research into impacts of offshore wind development on wildlife and fisheries. The projects are funded by two offshore wind farm developers through a fund administered by the state.

“Through the Research & Monitoring Initiative and these initial awards, we are supporting efforts that collect critical baseline data on whales and their movements along New Jersey’s coastline, as well as contributing to regional collaboration to study the impact of offshore wind development on recreational and commercial fisheries and our rich and diverse wildlife,” comments Joseph L. Fiordaliso, BPU’s president. “We are committed to developing New Jersey’s offshore wind resources in an environmentally sensitive and cost-effective way so that we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, improve air quality and public health, and protect the planet for generations to come.”

Specifically, RMI has provided funding for New Jersey’s entrance into the Regional Wildlife Science Entity (RWSE), formed last year to coordinate regional monitoring and research of wildlife and marine ecosystems that supports the advancement of environmentally responsible and cost-efficient offshore wind power development and natural resource stewardship. Current members are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York. ($60,000).

“The Regional Wildlife Science Entity welcomes New Jersey as a contributing member and collaborator on offshore wind and wildlife research,” says Emily Shumchenia, RWSE’s director. “We very much look forward to working with the state to support regional approaches to define key research needs, standardize data collection and monitoring protocols, and amplify the results of ongoing offshore wind and wildlife research along the Atlantic coast.”

A collaborative effort is being led by Rutgers University in partnership with NOAA and Northeast Fisheries and Surfside Seafood Products LLC to develop a specialized surf clam dredge to conduct research in areas where harvesting of this commercially important species overlaps wind-turbine lease areas. Research will also examine the impacts of ocean acidification caused by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on surf clams to provide critical baseline information. ($865,440).

Another study is focused on gathering data on ecological and physical oceanographic conditions – such as seafloor topography, sunlight availability, temperature and stratification – through extensive monitoring using an underwater glider through Rutgers University. The glider will work in a vast area of the Continental Shelf stretching from Sandy Hook to Cape May. ($2.5 million).

The RMI will also release shortly a request for proposals for a passive acoustic monitoring project to better understand the movements and behaviors of baleen whale species, including the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, in the waters along New Jersey’s coastline. This project will be part of larger effort which includes collaboration with nearby state, regional and federal entities that seeks to protect marine mammals as offshore wind farms are developed along the eastern seaboard.

Developing New Jersey’s offshore wind resources is a core strategy of Governor Murphy’s Energy Master Plan, which identifies the most ambitious and cost-effective ways of reaching 100% clean energy by 2050.

As part of the BPU’s second wind energy solicitation, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind LLC and Ørsted’s Ocean Wind II committed $10,000 per MW of project-size-awarded capacity – or about $26 million – to fund research and ecological monitoring of offshore wind.

Atlantic Shores’ lease area is approximately 10 miles off the southern New Jersey coast and has the potential to power nearly 1 million homes. Ørsted’s Ocean Wind lease area is located approximately 15 miles off the southern New Jersey coast and has the potential to power nearly half a million homes.

The initial studies and entry into the Regional Wildlife Entity support New Jersey’s commitment to regional cooperation and sharing of research in the development of offshore wind energy. These efforts will provide important baseline data needed for assessments of ecological changes resulting from wind farm construction and operation.

These initial research projects were selected as priorities based on input gathered from stakeholders and the New Jersey Environmental Resources Offshore Wind Working Group. Stakeholders providing input included a variety of state, federal, fishing industry and environmental organizations.

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