Bill Would Pre-Empt Local Say Over Offshore Wind Projects

This Oct. 1, 2020 photo shows wind turbines at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority plant in Atlantic City, N.J. On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, New Jersey lawmakers advanced a proposed law that would fast track offshore wind energy projects by pre-empting local controls over power lines and other onshore infrastructure associated with them. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
This Oct. 1, 2020 photo shows wind turbines at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority plant in Atlantic City, N.J. On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, New Jersey lawmakers advanced a proposed law that would fast track offshore wind energy projects by pre-empting local controls over power lines and other onshore infrastructure associated with them. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey lawmakers are considering a law that would fast-track offshore wind energy projects by removing the ability of local governments to control power lines and other onshore components.

The bill, introduced last week and advanced on Tuesday, would give wind energy projects approved by the state Board of Public Utilities authority to locate, build, use and maintain wires and associated land-based infrastructure as long as they run underground on public property including streets. (The BPU could determine that some above-ground wires are necessary.)

It appears to be an effort to head off any local objections to at least one wind power project envisioned to come ashore at two former power plants, and run cables under two of the state's most popular beaches.

At a virtual public hearing in April on the Ocean Wind project planned by Orsted, the Danish wind energy developer, and PSEG, a New Jersey utility company, officials revealed that the project would connect to the electric grid at decommissioned power plants in Ocean and Cape May Counties.

The northern connection would be at the former Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey Township; the southern connection would be at the former B.L. England plant in Upper Township.

Cables running from the wind farm, to be located between 15 and 27 miles (24 to 43 kilometers) off the coast of Atlantic City, would come ashore at one of three potential locations in Ocean City: 5th Street, 13th Street or 35th Street. They would then run under the roadway along Roosevelt Boulevard out to Upper Township and the former power plant, which closed in 2019.

Cables also would need to cross Island Beach State Park in Ocean County, running under the dunes and beach and existing parking lots, out into Barnegat Bay, coming ashore either directly at the Oyster Creek site in the Forked River section of Lacey, or at either Bay Parkway or Lighthouse Drive in Waretown, also known as Ocean Township in Ocean County.

An Orsted spokesperson said the company supports the bill, which he said “establishes a mitigation process for qualified offshore wind projects approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities if talks break down at the local level. This is critical for keeping timelines and schedules not only for the developer, but for the supply chain and workforce dedicated to the project.”

Orsted also proposes a second project off New Jersey, and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, a joint venture between EDF Renewables North America and Shell New Energies US LLC, also proposes an offshore wind farm off the state's coast.

In addition, a Massachusetts company plans to build a high-voltage line to bring electricity from a future New Jersey offshore wind farm onto land, and connect it to the power grid. Anbaric, of Wakefield, Massachusetts, has already obtained several permits from New Jersey environmental regulators for what it calls its Boardwalk Power Link project.

The bill entitles a qualified wind energy project to obtain easements, rights-of-way or other property rights from any level of government that are necessary to build the project. The BPU would make a final decision if such approvals are withheld by governments.

No state, county or local government would be able to prohibit or charge a fee for the use of a street or other public property other than a road opening permit. If these governments refuse the permit for any other reason than legitimate public safety concerns, the state utilities board would be required to issue an order granting the necessary approval.

The wind energy developer would have to pay fair market value for easements or property rights it is awarded.

The bill was approved by a state Senate committee on Tuesday, and requires several additional approvals before being sent to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. It is to be considered Wednesday by an Assembly committee.

___

Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC