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Saturday, June 15, 2024

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Mayor Urges Wind Power Connection at BL England Plant

The dormant smokestack of the B.L. England Generating Station in Beesley's Point during the late-afternoon Oct. 4. 

By Camille Sailer

PETERSBURG – At the Sept. 23 Upper Township Committee meeting, Mayor Richard Palombo said that he had sent a letter Sept. 17 to Orsted, a Danish company that has garnered a worldwide reputation for being a pioneer in the wind-energy sector.
Palombo’s letter, which he shared with the Herald, expressed his “strong support of the former B.L. England electric generating station as a location for the landing of offshore wind,” urging that the Ocean Wind project, New Jersey’s first offshore wind farm, interconnect to the B.L. England site.
Orsted holds the license to develop a wind farm, established in a federally-authorized zone 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City. 
According to a June 21 release, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) awarded Orsted the bid to implement the 1,100-megawatt project. The wind farm, the largest of its kind in the U.S., would provide electricity to roughly 500,000 customers.
“There’s been some rumors and other inaccurate information circulating, so I wanted to let everyone know that this letter makes clear Upper’s interest in working with Orsted to use the decommissioned coal-fired B L. England plant, located at Beesley’s Point, for energy generation. I want to stress, however, that nothing has been decided on anything related to Upper at this point,” Palombo explained.
The B.L. England plant served as a coal-fired electric generating station for almost 60 years. The plant, shut down May 1, hosts a substation on site, operated by Atlantic City Electric.
Among multiple benefits related to using the B.L. England site for the project’s grid interconnection requirements, Palombo’s letter mentions the presence of the “significant substation on a property that is so close to the location of the Ocean Wind offshore wind farm.”
His letter lists other benefits that “make it an ideal place for interconnection.” These include: the “existing B.L. England site’s location would minimize marine and land environmental impacts, and provide scheduling certainty to Ocean Wind. Other areas of potential interconnection will be farther away from the proposed windfarm, requiring additional miles of cable, corresponding interference with marine life, and construction risk.
“Our understanding is that minimum upgrades would be necessary at the B.L. England substation and there is no need for transmission system upgrades, which will also provide for project schedule certainty. Finally, rather than utilizing another site requiring the additional disturbance of the environmentally sensitive shore area, B.L. England is a perfect reuse of an existing developed energy site. The reuse of B.L. England is a top priority for the residents of Upper Township.”
Engineer Paul Dietrich provided background on the situation after the meeting.
“Orsted is hooking up to a decommissioned nuclear facility in Lacey Township (Ocean County) and in some media coverage, there was no mention of Upper,” said Dietrich. “The purpose of the mayor’s letter was to clarify with Orsted that Upper is highly interested in working with the company.
“The Lacey facility needs a second location because it can’t handle all the electricity it is generating. We’ve been meeting with the company off and on and always are clear we want to work with them.”
Dietrich noted that the electricity, which can be viewed as an actual commodity that consumers use in their homes, could come from any part of the country, such as from hydropower from Wyoming or even from Canada. However, given economic realities, it is probable that present local-use electricity is being generated through a bidding process that each energy generation company can participate in based on its capacity and supply-chain infrastructure. 
Dietrich also provided details about the timing of any potential interconnectivity substation in the municipality: “We understand that Orsted will file formal interest in this type of project with the federal EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), including where its offshore routes might be by the end of this year.
“Assuming approval, the next step is that the company receive permits from other agencies, including relevant fish and wildlife bureaus and others. This stage of the approval process takes about two years and then construction could begin. Orsted is estimating maybe coming online by 2024.”
To contact Camille Sailer, email csailer@cmcherald.com.

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