New Jersey coast ideal for wind energy, study says

Armed with new research, New Jersey officials say coastal wind farms would have "minimal environmental impact" to the state's fauna.

A preliminary study by state officials in New Jersey found that coastal wind farms would have "minimal environmental impact."

According to the study, the result of two years of research commissioned by the state's Department of Environmental Protection, there would be "negligible impacts" to bird, fish and marine mammal life caused by "green energy" turbines located between three and 20 miles off the coast of Atlantic, Ocean and Cape May counties.

The $7 million study was performed by DEP contractor Geo-Marine Inc. and designed by scientists from the DEP, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Minerals Management Service.

"We now have the science and data needed to take the first steps towards making wind energy projects a reality for New Jersey," DEP commissioner Bob Martin said in a statement. "These types of projects will have a long-term effect on climate change and help us end our reliance on fossil fuels. We would much rather have wind turbines than oil rigs off the coast of New Jersey."

The study area included 75 miles of coastal area from Seaside Park to North Wildwood across 1,360 square nautical miles.

It took into account:

  • The abundance, distribution and migratory patterns of avian species, fish, marine mammals and sea turtles.
  • Shipping lanes, pipelines, tug and barge transit routes and undersea utility lines.
  • Artificial reefs, commercial and recreational fishing areas, and marine protected areas.

The study comes in advance of several such turbine projects, including a a pilot project by Fisherman's Energy that would be located three miles off the coast, and three lease areas for future meteorological studies by three private companies at sites 8 miles, 16 to 18 miles, and 20 miles off the coast.

Takeaways from the study:

  • Bird density significantly decreased as you move further offshore.
  • Only "a small percent" of birds were observed flying in the potential turbine rotor swept zone.
  • Dolphins are the predominant species in the study area.
  • Mitigation procedures could be used to limit negative impacts on wildlife. Examples include brief turbine shut downs during peak avian migration seasons and noise reduction techniques during construction for dolphins, which are sensitive to sound.

The final report will be released in July.

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