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Murphy Administration Marks Climate Week By Announcing Second Round Of Research Projects To Ensure Environmentally Responsible Offshore Wind Development (Monday, September 26, 2022)

This second round of projects, made possible by the Offshore Wind Research and Monitoring Initiative (RMI), will study potential impacts to the recreational fishing industry, use acoustic telemetry to track fish movements, deploy passive acoustic technologies to monitor whale movements, and evaluate offshore wind infrastructure as potential platforms for long-term environmental and ecological monitoring.

The projects have been selected to address short-term high-priority research needs, identified with input by stakeholders – including a variety of state, federal, fishing industry and environmental organizations – and the New Jersey Environmental Resources Working Group. The projects are supported through a $26 million fund administered by the state that received initial funding from two offshore wind developers as part of the BPU’s second offshore wind solicitation award.

“Development of offshore wind energy is a vital component of the Murphy Administration’s work to mitigate and respond to the worsening impacts of climate change,” said Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette. “This round of projects will gather critical baseline scientific information that will help ensure the responsible development and operation of offshore wind facilities that protect our coastline and its natural resources that are precious to all of us.”

“With three offshore wind projects and more than 3,700 MW already approved and our next solicitation for 1,200 MW coming in the first quarter of 2023, New Jersey is more than one-third of the way to Governor Murphy’s new goal of 11,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2040,” said NJBPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso. “Our Offshore Wind Research and Monitoring Initiative and the projects we are funding today represent the State’s continued commitment of ensuring ecologically responsible development of wind projects off the New Jersey coastline.”

The following projects received approval for the second round of RMI funding:

  • The Clean Energy and Sustainability Analytics Center at Montclair State University has been awarded $440,000 to assess the potential impacts of offshore wind energy on New Jersey’s recreational fishing industry. The researchers will conduct a survey of recreational anglers as part of a broader effort to estimate potential impacts to an industry that is an important driver of local economies.
  • Monmouth University and the New England Aquarium have been awarded $1.9 million to use acoustic telemetry to track fish movements along New Jersey’s coastline and in offshore wind lease areas. Species of interest – including endangered species and those that are important to commercial and recreational fishing – will be tagged with transmitters. Receivers placed strategically on the seabed will record their movements. The project will provide baseline data and become part of a larger acoustic telemetry network along the Eastern seaboard.
  • Allocation of $500,000 for deployment of passive acoustic monitoring systems on the seafloor to record the calls of baleen whale species, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale, to better understand the movements and behaviors of these animals. RMI will issue a contract for deployment of the equipment in the near future. Through this project, New Jersey will join a collaborative effort to support establishment of a regional detection network to avoid, minimize, and mitigate potential impacts on these animals during the construction and operation of offshore wind farms.
  • A team from Rutgers University, Monmouth University, the National Renewable Energy Lab, and the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind was awarded $285,000 to explore the potential use of offshore wind farm turbines, foundations, and substations as potential environmental and ecological monitoring platforms. This team will also gather input from a broad range of stakeholders to develop a conceptual plan for a regional network of environmental and ecological monitoring systems that would provide high-quality data on environmental and ecological conditions, commercial and recreational fisheries, and marine safety.

Offshore wind development is a core component of Governor Murphy’s Energy Master Plan, which establishes a goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050. To date, the BPU has awarded offshore wind development in three federal lease areas off New Jersey’s coastline, totaling 3,758 megawatts of offshore wind capacity.  

As part of the BPU’s second wind energy solicitation, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, LLC, and Ørsted’s Ocean Wind II committed $10,000 per megawatt of project-size-awarded capacity – or about $26 million – to fund research and ecological monitoring of offshore wind. Atlantic

Shores’ lease area is approximately 10 miles off the southern New Jersey coast and has the potential to power nearly 1 million homes. Ørsted’s Ocean Wind II lease area is located approximately 15 miles off the southern New Jersey coast and has the potential to power nearly half a million homes.

In March, DEP and BPU announced the award of more than $3.4 million in RMI projects that included funding to facilitate New Jersey’s entrance into the regional Wildlife Science Collaborative Initiative for Offshore Wind, development of a specialized commercial clamming research dredge, and data-gathering on ecological and oceanographic conditions.

The calibration of the specialized dredge to conduct research on impacts to commercially important surf clam populations is underway. This dredge is designed to be smaller and more maneuverable than a commercial surf clam dredge such as the one used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It will allow long-term sampling, even after turbines are constructed. It is also designed to sample a wider size-range of surf clams. Calibration entails running the dredge alongside the NOAA dredge and comparing results.

Since joining the Regional Wildlife Science Collaborative for Offshore Wind (formerly the Regional Wildlife Science Entity) as a member state, New Jersey’s RMI team has participated in several State Caucus meetings, as well as observed the Marine Mammal, Sea Turtle, Bird & Bat, and Habitat & Ecosystem subcommittee meetings. This organization has proven vital to the coordination and collaboration of environmental research across other states, federal agencies, NGOs, and wind developers.

The ecological and oceanographic baseline study approved earlier this year has allowed underwater gliders operated by Rutgers University including the DEP’s Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring to begin initial data collection on the Outer Continental Shelf. New gliders funded through the RMI will arrive next month to begin collecting even larger sets of data, including ocean pH, presence of tagged fish, and even detections of whales.