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Westerly| Westerly

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ATLANTIC CIITY, N.J. (AP), New Jersey officials will commission studies into the environmental impact of offshore wind power projects on animals as large or small as clams and whales.

This research addresses a major concern that has been raised by both opponents and supporters of the new industry. The studies provide baseline data that can be used to assess the ecological effects of wind farms’ construction and operation.

The Board of Public Utilities and the state Department of Environmental Protection announced Wednesday that they will fund $3.4 million in projects to study conditions at commercially valuable clambeds that will overlap with windturbine farms and to study the topography of ocean floor, including sunlight conditions, temperature, and carbon dioxide levels.

The state will also join Connecticut and Maryland in the Regional Wildlife Science Entity. It is designed to coordinate regional monitoring of wildlife and research that supports the advancement and conservation of offshore wind energy development.

The cost of the three initiatives is more than $3.4 million. The Offshore Wind Research & Monitoring Initiative will provide the money. It is managed by the DEP, BPU, and funded by money donated by Orsteds Ocean Wind II and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind. According to the state estimates, the companies have committed $26 million for ecological research and monitoring offshore wind operations.

“As the stewards of our vibrant coast and ocean resources, my colleagues at the Department of Environmental Protection are dedicated to the continual pursuit of research and monitoring initiatives to help us ensure the responsible development of offshore winds facilities and their long-term operation,” said Shawn LaTourette.

Joseph Fiordaliso, President of BPU, stated that the research will include gathering critical baseline data about whales and their movements along New Jersey’s coastline.

The program will solicit proposals for passive acoustic monitoring projects to better understand movements and behaviors of endangered whale species. North Atlantic Right WhaleIn the waters off New Jersey’s coast.

The project will be part a larger effort that includes state, regional, federal entities to protect marine mammals as offshore windfarms are built along the eastern seaboard.

Atlantic Shores lease area can power almost 1 million homes. It is located approximately 10 minutes from the southern New Jersey coast. Orsteds Ocean Wind lease is located approximately 15 miles from southern New Jersey’s coast and has the potential for powering almost half a millennium homes.

Opponents of offshore wind often voice concerns about the fact that little is known about the effects of the turbines and the buried undersea transmission cables on the environment.

New Jersey is quickly becoming a center of the rapidly growing offshore wind industry. Six companies bid $4.37billion for the right of building wind energy projects on New Jersey’s ocean floor. Largest ever such auction.

This is in addition to the three offshore wind projects that have been approved by New Jersey regulators.

The state indicated that it will soon issue an invitation for proposals from entities interested to carry out the research.

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