Opponents in Cape May County, N.J., to plans by renewable energy developer Orsted and New Jersey utility PSEG to build onshore connections for the state's first offshore wind energy farm—the 1.1-GW Ocean Winds 1 project—used a public hearing to step up their ongoing fight.
The latest skirmish comes as the state Board of Public Utilities announced Sept. 28 its approval of the developers' plan to route the transmission line from up to 99 project wind turbines located about 15 miles offshore from the county under streets of Ocean City, N.J., located south or Atlantic City, to the land-based power grid via a substation to be located at the former B.L. England coal and oil-fired power plant in Upper Township.
The wind farm, currently in the planning and permitting phase and set for completion by 2024, is estimated to cost $1.6 billion. PSEG acquired a 25% project stake in 2020. The project won an exemption last month in a federal court ruling to be able to use planned GE Haliade-X wind turbines—each capable of generating 13 MW to 14 MW and more than 850 ft tall—in a patent suit against the firm that is now being appealed.
Board commissioners granted easements to the developers for the line to cross under county-owned public land in an unanimous vote. Under a 2021 law signed by N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy (D), state approvals for the transmission needed for Ocean Wind and other projects can override local reviews.
"This issue is very complicated ... [but] I am very confident that [the approval] is in the best interest of all stakeholders both now and in the future," board Commissioner Zenon Christodoulou said.
Madeline Urbish, Orsted government affairs and policy manager in New Jersey, said at the hearing that Ocean Wind 1 needed the easement to enable completion of the state's final environmental review that would keep the project construction schedule on track. She said the proposed cable route would limit environmental impact.
Ocean City Business Administrator George Savastano challenged state board authority to rule on the transmission line, seeking to have the dispute decided by the state Office of Administrative Law. The line would disturb environmentally sensitive beachfront and wetland areas, he said. Officials want the route to cross Great Egg Harbor Inlet instead.
Savastano demanded that Orsted disclose the cost of possible alternate cable routes, claiming the route along 35th Street was chosen because it would be the cheapest option but not the most environmentally safe route. “No decision should be made on the transmission line until an environmental impact analysis of the wind farm is completed,” he said.
Residents also sought to delay the cable route approval until a final environmental impact statement is made public. "There are flaws noted in the [draft] document that need to be addressed and likely require additional research, said Ocean City resident Barbara McCall.
Attorney Paul J. Baldini, representing nine county communities opposing the current route, said “Ocean Wind has failed to address the impact of the need for elevated infrastructure in the near future due to global warming."
Simultaneous to the hearing, implosion contractor Controlled Demolition Inc. completed takedown of the 200-ft-tall power plant cooling tower for Beesley’s Point Development Group LLC, owner since last year of the 350-acre plant, which dates to the early 1960s. The 447-MW facility was decommissioned in 2019. The cooling tower was built in 1974.
Plant owners had hoped to switch the plant to natural gas, which depended on a controversial pipeline that would have cross the New Jersey Pinelands. That plan was dropped in 2019.
At the end of 2020, the Upper Township Planning Board designated the site as a redevelopment area, with local officials previously speculating on plans for a waterfront marina district.
Design-build firm Burns & McDonnell said it won two EPC contracts for the onshore substations and cabling for Ocean Wind 1 and New Jersey contractor JINGOLI Power has been awarded a separate underground cabling contract.
Orsted will also provide a subsidy of undisclosed amount to the township to host the substations.
The developer also is set to build the estimated 1,148-MW Ocean Wind 2, to be located adjacent to the current offshore wind project.