ATLANTIC CITY — In June, the state Board of Public Utilities approved a plan by the Danish firm Ørsted to build a 1,100-megawatt wind farm 15 miles off Atlantic City, with a subsidy of $1.6 billion over 20 years.

After the announcement of the approval, BPU President Joseph Fiordaliso said it would make New Jersey “the central focal point for offshore wind on the East Coast of the U.S.”

Two months later, representatives from various industries and agencies discussed the power source’s environmental pros and cons in the resort.

“We truly do think (wind power) can be developed responsibly with minimal impacts to wildlife,” said Catherine Bowes, program director for offshore wind energy with the National Wildlife Federation.

Bowes, who moderated a panel on the issue Friday at Stockton University, called wind power a “critically needed” climate change solution.

The “Addressing Environmental Concerns” panel was part of the third annual Time for Turbines conference at Stockton’s Atlantic City campus and hosted by Jersey Renews, a “broad coalition of labor, environmental and faith partners” focused on climate policy, and the Business Network for Offshore Wind.

Gov. Phil Murphy has set a goal of generating 3,500 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind by 2030.

Among the concerns discussed Friday was the disruption of marine life.

Captain Paul Eidman, a representative of Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, said he saw an interesting upside to situating wind turbines in water after visiting the Block Island wind farm off Rhode Island.

“Within two months after construction, all types of mussels adhered to the bases and just became like an instant overnight ecosystem with fish (flocking) to it,” Eidman said.

That could be a boon for fishermen, he said.

Academics had a say in Friday’s panel as well. Joseph Brodie, director of atmospherics at Rutgers University’s Center for Ocean Observing Leadership, discussed how the school uses autonomous robots that can operate for months at a time to collect data on a variety of “ocean parameters,” including salinity, temperature, pH levels and marine life migration.

“All that data comes back together, and we run a suite of ocean and atmospheric models that feed in all this data to give us a good forecast and outlook of what’s happening to the ocean,” Brodie said.

That is all relevant to tracking the impact of wind power development off the coast, he said.

Debbie Mans, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the agency is “all in” on offshore wind but understands the need for “responsible site selection and development.”

“That’s why we are working very closely with BPU and (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), so we can help look at these sites early in the process and identify ... sensitive areas or cleanups that need to be done,” Mans said.

Present in all discussions on precautionary work and careful development during the panel was the notion that wind power is the future and risks can be worked through.

“We truly believe that offshore wind can be developed responsibly, that these potential impacts can be managed well,” said Bowes. “That’s why we’re so excited to see it move forward.”

Contact: 609-272-7260 cshaw@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressColtShaw

Staff Writer

I cover breaking news on the digital desk. I graduated from Temple University in Dec. 2017 and joined the Press in the fall of 2018. Previously, I freelanced, covering Pennsylvania state politics and criminal justice reform.

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