Sierra Club wants larger, not small, wind farm projects

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 8:00am

A story about the Sierra Club opposing a small wind farm proposed for the coast of New Jersey caught the eye of more than one Block Island resident, if only because reports said the Sierra Club was opposing that six-turbine wind farm because it was,  at three miles off the coast, too close to the New Jersey shore. It was not lost on some people that the Block Island Wind Farm, which the Sierra Club enthusiastically endorsed, is also three miles from the island’s coastline.

Mark Kresowik, Deputy Regional Director of the Sierra Club, said that, for starters, the distance the proposed wind farm is from the Jersey shore is the least of their concerns or problems with that specific proposal.

It is the size of the project that Kresowik said most concerns the Sierra Club.

The process to bring offshore wind energy to New Jersey has experienced some of the same kind of legislative hiccups that were also seen during the buildup to the Block Island Wind Farm. Kresowik said the New Jersey Offshore Wind Energy Development Act, which would allow waters to be leased to wind farms, sat on the books for about six years until Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed an executive order on Jan. 31, 2018. That paved the way for companies to submit proposals  for offshore wind projects.

The proposal by a New Jersey-based group called Fisherman’s Energy, LLC, one of six companies competing for the leasing, is opposed by the Sierra Club because the group feels the time for offshore wind demonstration projects has passed. The Fisherman’s Energy proposal — which was once in line to be the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. until it was delayed by a variety of political and fiscal matters — is a $210 million, six-turbine, 24-megawatt project.

The Sierra Club now believes larger projects would be more beneficial to the New Jersey consumer, said Kresowik. There are proposals from Orsted North America for a 1,000 megawatt project, as well as a large one from U.S. Wind, Inc.

“The size and cost is not as advantageous to consumers or the climate,” said Kresowik of the Fisherman’s Energy proposal. Kresowik also said that the Block Island Wind Farm had successfully achieved one of its stated goals, which was as a pilot program to bring offshore wind to the United States. That having been accomplished, Kresowik said, there is no longer a need for smaller demonstration proposals.

“We now have have the skill and the knowledge to move to full scale projects,” Kresowik said. “We need to move on to full scale projects for the consumer.”

It was headlines such as the one for a story posted on Bloomberg News that caught the eye of some people who keep a close eye on the Block Island Wind Farm: “Sierra Club Likes Wind Farms — Just Not This New Jersey One,” with a subhead that read: ”Group fighting wind project that it says is too close to shore.”

Kresowik said that a staff person at the Sierra Club in New Jersey did make the remark, but he added “That is not a major concern of ours.”