The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) have announced $3.4m in funding for studies to provide enhanced scientific information on the impacts of offshore wind energy development off the state’s coastline. Three funded projects are the first activities of the Offshore Wind Research and Monitoring Initiative (RMI), administered by the DEP and the BPU and financed by two offshore wind farm developers. (As part of the BPU’s second wind energy solicitation, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind and Ørsted’s Ocean Wind II committed $10,000 per megawatt of project-size-awarded capacity – or about $26m – to fund research and ecological monitoring of offshore wind.)
Through the first project, with a $2.5m budget, Rutgers University will gather data on ecological and physical oceanographic conditions such as seafloor topography, sunlight availability, temperature and stratification through extensive monitoring.
The second project, which has a budget of $865,440, is a collaborative effort led by Rutgers University in partnership with NOAA and Northeast Fisheries and Surfside Seafood Products to develop a specialised surf clam dredge to conduct research in areas where harvesting of this species overlaps wind-turbine lease areas. This research will also examine the impacts on surf clams of ocean acidification caused by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Funding of $60,000 will allow New Jersey to join the Regional Wildlife Science Entity, formed last year to coordinate regional monitoring and research of wildlife and marine ecosystems that supports the advancement of environmentally responsible and cost-efficient offshore wind power development and natural resource stewardship. Current members are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York.
The initial studies and entry into the Regional Wildlife Entity support New Jersey’s commitment to regional cooperation and sharing of research in the development of offshore wind energy. These efforts will provide important baseline data needed for assessments of ecological changes resulting from wind farm construction and operation.
The projects were selected as priorities based on input gathered from stakeholders and the New Jersey Environmental Resources Offshore Wind Working Group. Stakeholders providing input included a variety of state, federal, fishing-industry and environmental organizations.