• October 22, 2019

Upper Twp. still hopes wind power an option for BL England plant - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Upper Twp. still hopes wind power an option for BL England plant

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Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2019 10:56 am

BEESLEYS POINT — While Upper Township pushes for the now-idled BL England power plant as an option to bring electricity to shore from a planned wind farm 15 miles off Atlantic City, it will likely be months before the community has an answer. 

The final turbine of the former coal-fired plant shut down in May. What happens next at the former power plant remains in question. Part of the sprawling site is zoned as residential. Township officials are working on a plan that could include designating the area in need of redevelopment. 

Officials hope electricity will remain part of the equation. 

The electricity generated by offshore wind turbines will have to come ashore somewhere. Local officials point out that the former power plant already has the infrastructure to bring that power into the electric grid. 

Mayor Rich Palombo said recently that Upper Township is willing to work with the company to help bring the lines into Beesleys Point. In September, he sent a letter expressing that willingness to Ørsted, the Danish power company that has the contract to build an 1,100-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Atlantic and Cape May counties. 

In a recent interview, Palombo said the township has not heard anything yet. 

“We remain cautiously optimistic,” he said. 

Kris Ohleth, Ørsted’s senior manager for stakeholder engagement, said Sunday the Upper Township site remains in the running. 

“Mayor Palombo and I have had many conversations about the redevelopment at Beesleys Point,” Ohleth said. “The sense is the more activity on the point, the better. The township is preparing a master plan for Beesleys Point.” 

The area has a long history, with archeological sites showing human occupation in what is now Beesleys Point long before the Colonial period. It was the site of a ferry crossing even before the construction of a bridge to Atlantic County. But the last remnant of that long-closed bridge was removed years ago. 

Upper Township and Cape May County have big plans for that area, with proposals for bike paths and a waterfront park. In a previous interview, township engineer Paul Dietrich has indicated the future use of the BL England site will be an important part of that plan. 

So far, Ørsted has made no commitment. 

In September, the company secured the rights to connect to the Oyster Creek Generating Station in Ocean County as a site to bring wind power into the grid. That plant has also shut down generation recently. Many saw that as a blow to Upper Township’s hopes, but according to Palombo, the company will still need a site at the southern end of the wind farm, and said the former BL England site could not handle the entire power input from the wind farm. 

“We are still in our due diligence phase,” Ohleth said.

She said two other sites are also under consideration, in Atlantic City and at Oyster Creek. There are advantages to using the BL England site, but some drawbacks as well. 

For instance, bringing a power line through the Great Egg Harbor Inlet from the open ocean presents difficulties. The channel has a strong current and sees a lot of boat traffic. That is not enough to rule out the possibility, though. 

“It’s more challenging but we do have some options,” Ohleth said. 

She said Upper Township would have an answer in four to six months. 

Plans call for the $695 million offshore wind farm to begin generating power by 2024, the first of three phases planned for offshore wind power in New Jersey and the largest offshore wind farm in U.S. history. 

The first phase is set to generate enough electricity to power 500,000 homes. Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has set a goal for 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

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