By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – Orsted, the Dutch energy company developing a 1,100 megawatt offshore wind energy farm 15 miles off the coast of South Jersey, is currently in the neighborhood conducting an architectural historical survey needed for the rigorous permitting process.
Ventnor City government issued a statement on its Facebook page about Orsted’s contractor, SEARCH, which will be taking photographs of certain buildings and structures in beachfront communities along the NJ coastline, including homes built before 1976 that currently have unobstructed views of the ocean. The survey is a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Federal Offshore Wind Process to determine the potential effects the wind farm will have on cultural resources.
“This type of survey, as well as archaeological resource surveys, are requirements set forth by federal government, requiring an evaluation of architectural resources and archaeological resources to determine any potential effects of Ocean Wind on cultural resources,” said spokeswoman Caitlin Latko in an email to Ventnor Acting Adminstrator Maria Mento.
Credentialed photographers from SEARCH will be in Ventnor taking photos of homes from the road, sidewalk, beach or boardwalk, but residents should not be concerned, officials said.
The wind farm project includes installing 99 wind turbines 15 miles off the coast from Atlantic City to Stone Harbor with three land based cable connection points in Ocean City, Higbee Beach in Atlantic City and Oyster Creek in Ocean Township. The turbines stand 511 feet tall, with blades increasing the height to 905 feet.
According to the Orsted website, the wind farm will provide clean energy for more than 3.2 million homes by 2035.
The company is currently in the permitting process. Construction is slated to be completed by 2024.
During a discussion at their Jan. 14 meeting, members of Ocean City Council have expressed concerns that the wind farm could be visible from the beach, creating visual blight that could harm the city’s bustling tourism industry. They would like to hear the opinions of residents, business owners and fishers.
“I think we have to do our research from every perspective,” Ocean City Councilman Michael DeVlieger said. “We have to do it from the perspective of the eco-friendly folks, we have to look at it from the dollars and cents standpoint and we have to look at how it affects each and every bit of our economy, particularly here in Cape May County.”
Orsted is seeking approval to run an underground cable through Ocean City to the B.L. England plant in Marmora. The cables would run under city streets, possibly at 35th Street or 14th Street.
So far, the wind farm doesn’t seem to be an issue in the Downbeach area.
“If you want to stop burning fossil fuels, this is the way to do it,” Ventnor Commissioner of Public Works Lance Landgraf said Monday. “They are all over the place in Europe and it doesn’t seem to be a problem there.”
The wind turbines erected by the Atlantic County Utilities Authority in Atlantic City have attracted the attention of visitors to the Borgata and Harrah’s resorts, who request rooms with a view of the turbines, he said.
Landgraf said the commissioners have yet to hear any pushback from local residents about the prospect of having wind turbines 15 miles offshore.
“On a clear day, they will look like toothpicks on the horizon,” he said.
Regarding the historical study, “it’s just an item on the EPA’s checklist,” he said.
Landgraf said Orsted had reached out to the municipality last year to do a presentation at a public meeting, but it was sidelined by the COVID-19 crisis.
“They did talk to us separately about it,” he said. “As far as I know, we’re all on board with it.”
Mento said five SEARCH team members would be in Ventnor Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 20 and 21 taking photographs for the survey.
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