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US poised to back New Jersey offshore wind farms

  • : Electricity, Emissions
  • 24/05/23

US regulators could soon approve two offshore wind projects near New Jersey, but with stipulations that would slightly reduce the number of turbines installed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) favors a design for the Atlantic Shores South system that would result in up to 195 turbines, as many as 10 offshore substations and eight transmission cables to ferry electricity ashore to New Jersey, the agency said today in its final environmental impact statement for the project.

Atlantic Shores South comprises two separate projects, Atlantic Shores 1 and Atlantic Shores 2, which are 50:50 partnerships between Shell and EDF Renewables. The pair's overall capacity is tentatively set at 2,837MW, with the first phase targeting 1,510MW and a size for the second to be determined.

Atlantic Shores 1 has a contract to deliver up to 6.18mn offshore renewable energy certificates each year to New Jersey, with first power expected in 2027. The state selected the project through its second offshore wind solicitation, with the 20-year contract scheduled to begin in 2028.

The developers had proposed installing up to 200 turbines, but BOEM decided to favor a modified plan, adopting alternatives put forward by the companies in the name of mitigating impacts on local habitats while limiting turbine height and their proximity to the shore to reduce the project's "visual impacts," a point of contention among New Jersey residents who fear damage to tourism in oceanside communities.

The BOEM-endorsed design would have mostly "minor" to "moderate" effects on the surrounding environment, with exceptions including consequences for North Atlantic right whales, commercial and for-hire fisheries and local scenery, which could be "major." The areas potentially hit hardest by the projects would be open to "major" consequences regardless of the project design, according to BOEM's analysis.

The preference is not BOEM's final ruling, but it does herald the path the agency is likely to take. Regulators will publish the review in a "coming" edition of the Federal Register, starting a mandatory 30-day waiting period before BOEM can publish its final decision on the project.

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