Wind Farm Developer Orsted to Host Virtual Open Houses

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Orsted's proposed wind farm 15 miles off the New Jersey coast is expected to create thousands of jobs during the development and construction phase. (Image courtesy City of Ocean City)

By MADDY VITALE

Offshore wind developer Orsted is hosting three virtual open houses to give South Jersey information on the proposed Ocean Wind project that would power more than half a million New Jersey homes.

The virtual meetings will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 24 at 10 a.m. The public is invited to join the free sessions by registering in advance at www.OceanWind.com.

The wind farm would be 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City and is expected to be completed in 2024. Orsted has hosted meetings throughout the coastal communities to inform the public of its progress and explain how it would provide clean renewable energy and create thousands of jobs.

But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orsted team has opted to hold virtual meetings, while still allowing the public to learn and ask questions about the wind farm project.

Orsted held two meetings, one in August of 2019 and another in February of 2020, in Ocean City to lay out the proposal and also hear feedback from residents and stakeholders.

“We want to encourage Ocean City and surrounding areas to join us,” said Kris Ohleth, senior stakeholder relations manager for Orsted. “It really has been at the heart of Ocean Wind to engage the local community as we develop our project.”

“There is a lot to learn about offshore wind. These are novel projects in the U.S. People of Ocean City have been so inquisitive,” Ohleth said of the prior meetings in Ocean City.

Kris Ohleth, senior stakeholder relations manager for Orsted, gives a presentation in February at the Ocean City Tabernacle.

So far, Oleth noted that there have already been 450 people who registered to attend the virtual meetings.

“While the pandemic has made things less than ideal — now, maybe more – hopefully, this will offer another level of accessibility for some stakeholders,” Ohleth said. “Once the sessions are complete, people can come to Ocean Wind and they will see that.”

Ocean Wind would contribute significantly to the state’s renewable energy goal of supplying more than 3.2 million New Jersey homes with offshore wind power by 2035.

The project is expected to create jobs annually through development and the three-year construction cycle. Ocean Wind will also have 69 full-time jobs in its operations and maintenance facility in Atlantic City to service the turbines during the lifetime of the wind farm.

Specifically, there would be 90 turbines in the Atlantic off the New Jersey coast producing 1,100 megawatts, officials said.

The turbines would be spaced about a mile apart in rows and built in deep water. The hub of the turbine would stand 511 feet tall, with blades increasing the height to a total of 905 feet, Orsted representatives have said. The turbines would only be faintly visible on the clearest of days from the shoreline, Ohleth said.

During the virtual meetings, Ohleth will give an overview of the project and then there will be six “stations” in which participants can view presentations by experts in six areas.

This view depicts the wind farm faintly visible on the horizon while looking from the shoreline in Ocean City. (Renderings from Orsted)

The stations are as follows:

– An overview of the project and Orsted

– Potential cable from the land into the ocean will be explained as well as construction techniques.

– Permitting and general environmental issues will be discussed from local, state, and federal agencies as well as surveys.

– Fishing, shipping and navigation will be discussed.

– Economic development and how Orsted will create jobs for the region. In addition, a $15 million trust program targeted at small businesses and coastal resiliency projects will be explained.

– Participants will be able to view the offshore wind farm project renderings

Oleth said that feedback not only is welcomed but can changes the direction the company takes with the project.

“Originally the turbine layout was more optimized for wind. When we shared the layout, the fishermen wanted a grid layout for them to go through easier,” Ohleth explained. “We redesigned the wind farm, so the rows and columns are one mile apart, so it is easier for the fishermen to navigate. We are always looking for ways to be good neighbors.”

For more information or to register for the free sessions, go to www.OceanWind.com.

Orsted representatives answer questions from members of the public during the February meeting.