NJDEP & NJBPU Announce $3.7 Million In Offshore Wind Studies - The Fisherman

NJDEP & NJBPU Announce $3.7 Million In Offshore Wind Studies

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) President Christine Guhl-Sadovy announced last month that nearly $3.7 million would go to fund scientific research projects related to industrial offshore wind development.

According to the NJDEP press release, projects newly funded through the state’s ongoing Research and Monitoring Initiative (RMI) include an aerial survey of whales, a whale satellite-tagging study, a study of seasonal water-mixing dynamics, the expansion of an existing tracking system for birds and bats, and a study focused on sea turtle behavior and health.

“Development of offshore wind energy is critical to mitigating and responding to the worsening impacts of climate change,” said Commissioner LaTourette, adding “These projects continue to advance our collection of important baseline scientific information that is necessary to ensure the responsible development and operation of offshore wind facilities.”

According to LaTourette, the RMI which is jointly administered by the NJDEP and NJBPU employs a rigorous scientific approach to coordinate research on potential impacts of the development, operation, and eventual decommissioning of offshore wind energy to ensure the state’s offshore wind energy goals are achieved responsibly and with as little impact on natural resources as possible.

“As we continue to pursue a 100% clean energy economy by 2035, it’s imperative that we not only protect the interests of our ratepayers but safeguard the vitality of our marine ecosystems as well,” said NJBPU President Guhl-Sadovy, adding “The Research Monitoring Initiative is a crucial piece of our comprehensive efforts to responsibly develop New Jersey’s nation-leading offshore wind industry.”

Prior to being appointed NJBPU President back in 2023 by Governor Phil Murphy, Guhl-Sadovy served as Cabinet Secretary in the Governor’s senior staff.  According to the NJBPU website, Guhl-Sadovy previously worked at NJBPU, where she rose to the position Chief of Staff under President Joe Fiordaliso helping spearhead Governor Murphy’s clean energy agenda.

Rutgers University has been awarded $97,462 to study the effects of offshore wind turbines and foundations on the Mid-Atlantic cold pool, a unique oceanographic feature important to marine ecosystems. The cold pool is characterized by a cold bottom layer of water that develops in the spring and breaks down in the fall as seasonal storms and high winds mix the thermal layers of the water column. A report issued in 2020 by the Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCEMFIS) found that any weakening the cold pool could help generate “the most catastrophic ecological event on the continental shelf the world has ever seen,” with the SCEMFIS researchers noting how great care must be taken to show the chance of an impact from offshore wind is “vanishingly small.”

Rutgers University was also awarded $929,593 to evaluate the movements and habitat use of humpback whales and fin whales in and around the New Jersey offshore wind lease areas. NOAA Fisheries has also been awarded $47,383 to extend seasonal aerial whale surveys by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center into the coastal region off northern New Jersey. Other funding from the NJDEP Research Monitoring Initiative include $1.3 million for the American Bird Conservancy for helping track the movements of radio-tagged birds and bats, along with $1.03 million for the Coonamessett Farm Foundation for tagging efforts to evaluate baseline preconstruction migration routes of sea turtles, including loggerheads, greens, kemps ridleys, and leatherbacks.

“RMI projects are selected to address the short-term highest priority research needs identified with input from subject matter experts; stakeholders, including a variety of state, federal, fishing industry, and environmental organizations; and the New Jersey Environmental Resources Offshore Wind Working Group,” the NJDEP release stated.