By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Best-selling author and nationally known environmental advocate Michael Shellenberger scoffs at the notion that ocean wind farms, like the one proposed off the South Jersey coast, are a good source of renewable, green energy.
He regards them more as an industrialized threat to the environment, to the commercial fishing industry, to marine life and wildlife.
“The big push to industrialize the East Coast will ruin the East Coast. It’s a gross environmental injustice,” he said.
Shellenberger will be in Ocean City on Thursday, July 15, to present his views on the wind farm industry during a forum that will focus on a proposal to build 99 towering wind turbines off the South Jersey coast.
“I’m going to argue that everything we were told about renewable energy is wrong,” Shellenberger said in an interview Sunday from his California home.
His guest-speaking appearance 7 p.m. Thursday at the Ocean City Music Pier is part of a public forum organized by Save Our Shoreline – Stop the Wind Farms Off the Coast of NJ, a Facebook group opposed to the Wind Farm project.
The forum is not an organized protest against the wind farm, but is intended as a discussion about the supposed benefits and drawbacks of the project to help let members of the public decide for themselves whether to support or oppose it.
“I always want the public to make up their minds,” Shellenberger said.
Shellenberger is the author of the nationally bestselling book “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All,” in which he argues that climate change is not the existential threat it is portrayed to be in popular media and environmental activism.
Among his awards, he was named Time magazine’s “Hero of the Environment” for his environmental advocacy. He is also the president of Environmental Progress, an independent, nonpartisan research organization based in Berkeley, California.
Shellenberger’s stop in Ocean City is part of a two-city tour that will also take him to Edgartown, Mass., on July 22 for a town hall meeting about a proposed wind energy farm 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
At this point, the wind industry is tiny in the United States, but proponents such as New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy are touting it as an environmentally friendly source of energy that should be expanded.
Murphy has made the proposed 1,100-megawatt Orsted project one of the centerpieces of his goal to have 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity in New Jersey by 2035.
Orsted’s project is currently undergoing a rigorous regulatory environmental review expected to take two years to complete. Orsted and its New Jersey-based energy partner, PSEG, expect to bring the wind farm online in 2024 and say it will produce enough power for about 500,000 homes.
The project has drawn strong local opposition from Ocean City’s elected officials, who believe it could harm the environment, the tourism industry and commercial fishing operations. They also say that the massive wind turbines planned 15 miles offshore from Atlantic City to Stone Harbor, passing by Ocean City, would be a visual blight.
Shellenberger’s opposition to the wind industry is based on his belief that it is harmful to the environment and ultimately will prove far more expensive than other forms of energy.
“They are proposing to industrialize our coast with gigantic machines that pose a significant threat to our wildlife,” he said.
The spinning blades of the wind-generating turbines will kill birds, bats and other wildlife, he said. He fears that bald eagles, whooping cranes and the endangered California condors would be at risk of being killed by the turbines if wind farms are built on the East and West coasts.
In addition to his environmental concerns, Shellenberger objects to wind farms for economic reasons, saying they are costly to build and will also result in higher electric bills for everyday consumers.
“Wind is chaotic,” he said. “Managing all that chaotic energy is expensive.”
He added, “It will make electricity more expensive. I have no doubt about that.”
Orsted has already said that electric bills in New Jersey will increase for power generated by the wind farm.
The company recently released a statement following the approval of state legislation that is intended to fast-track the project by overriding any opposition from local communities.
“We are in the early stages of building a new American industry in the U.S. and here in New Jersey. We are excited about the potential of offshore wind to generate jobs, revitalize ports, create new opportunities for small businesses, and combat the effects of climate change,” the statement said.
In June, Ocean City’s Council members unanimously approved a resolution denouncing the state legislation as a blatant power grab by New Jersey that would strip local municipalities of their right to home rule.
Orsted representatives have been talking to Ocean City about the possibility of running underground electric cables through town to connect the offshore turbines to a substation next to the decommissioned B.L. England Generating Station in Marmora. B.L. England is under consideration as one of the sites where Orsted would link the wind farm to the land-based power grid.
As it stands now, Orsted would need City Council’s approval for an ordinance allowing the company to run the cables under Ocean City’s streets. A company official said 35th Street is Orsted’s first choice, with 14th Street and Ninth Street also under consideration.
However, the state legislation would remove local oversight power. It would allow wind farms to obtain easements, rights-of-way or other property rights from any level of government that are needed to build the project. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, or BPU, would make a final decision if local approvals are withheld by towns or counties.
The legislation is expected to be discussed during Shellenberger’s appearance at the Ocean City wind farm forum.
Tickets are available at Eventbrite: https://shellenbergeroceancitymusicpierjuly157pm.eventbrite.com