77 Pct of Atlantic City Residents Support Offshore Wind

The majority of residents in Atlantic City, N.J., and surrounding communities favor the construction of an offshore wind power project, based on surveys conducted through the Delaware Sea Grant College Program.

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Article by Teresa MessmoreUDaily

Results show that 77 percent of residents are inclined to support a demonstration project of five offshore wind turbines visible from the shore, versus 20 percent leaning the other way. The remaining three percent were undecided.

Private developer Fishermen’s Energy proposed a small-scale wind turbine project about three miles off the coast of Atlantic City, funded in part by a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Delaware Sea Grant researchers gauged public support of the project with interviews in 2012 and a mail survey in 2013 of the greater Atlantic City area.

After stating their opinion of the project, residents were asked to name the three issues they considered most important with regards to offshore wind power development. Surprisingly, electricity costs were considered important issues only among supporters.

“It suggests that respondents either believe that the Fisherman’s Energy project has substantial merit even if it will raise electricity bills slightly,” said Jeremy Firestone, professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and director of the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration. “Or, they believe that the project will ultimately lead to lower electricity rates as the offshore wind power industry matures.” 

When spread across all households in New Jersey, Firestone and doctoral student Alison Bates, who will be teaching at Colby College in the fall, estimate the monthly increase in household electricity bills associated with the project to be between 9 and 22 cents.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) rejected the project in March based largely on cost. Fisherman’s Energy, however, filed a motion of reconsideration last week.

Besides electricity cost, benefits to wildlife and the environment was the other significant issue for project supporters. Residents were shown an image representing what the project would look like offshore, and wildlife and environmental effects, aesthetic impacts, user conflicts and tourism resonated strongly as issues among opponents.

The survey respondents included greater Atlantic City residents living adjacent to the coast and those further away from the shore, but still within several miles. The researchers found that about one-third of survey participants had heard about the planned project, and those individuals were more like to voice support for the initiative.

The findings are part of a broader Delaware Sea Grant study examining coastal and near-shore wind power turbines. Several more detailed publications on study results from both New Jersey and Delaware residents are planned for later this year.

Press Release, April 15, 2014; Image: Macro Works, 2013