Onshore Wind Turbines: Not in My Backyard

A grassroots group wants to make sure that a huge wind turbine is not built in its community

The state is looking to bolster renewable energy resources like wind, but it is getting some pushback when it comes to locating wind turbines in areas surrounded by homes.

Blame it on shadow flicker.

With wind turbines rising nearly 400 feet high in some cases, the shadow of a rotating turbine results in a continuously alternating sun and shadow pattern on nearby homes, an event that has been dubbed shadow flicker.

That is just one of many objections, including noise and declining property values, that mobilized residents in Union Beach and surrounding towns against a proposed 1.5 megawatt wind turbine at the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority in Union Beach on the edge of Raritan Bay.

They’ve gotten the attention of lawmakers. Sen. Sean Kean (R-Monmouth) has introduced a bill (S-2374) that would prohibit industrial strength wind turbines from being located within 2,000 feet of any residence or residentially zoned property.

So far, the bill has yet to move out of committee, but a hearing on it this week underscored how divisive the issue is.

“We’re trying to solve a problem,” said Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. “It’s not a simple problem.”

Bill Heller, a resident of Union Beach and a vocal opponent of the project, told the committee huge wind turbines such as the one proposed in his community absolutely depress property values.

While appreciative of the bill requiring a minimum setback of at least 2,000 feet, Heller said other countries require wind turbines be at least 1.2 miles away from the nearest home.

Opponents also cited safety concerns with the wind turbines, a matter that led to a halt in the processing of new applications by the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) earlier this year. The action was taken after all three blades of a wind turbine in Forked River broke loose. In addition, there was a problem with a different wind turbine in Villas that caught fire.

While New Jersey has been aggressively trying to lure developers to build big offshore wind farms, the state’s efforts to encourage construction of wind turbines on land is much more modest.

The small wind program run by the Office of Clean Energy has handed out $4.7 million in rebates for 33 projects, which have installed 7.9 megawatts of new generating capacity, far less than the 300 megawatts of solar systems deployed in the state and third behind the 31 megawatts of biomass capacity, as indicated by new Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard proposed by the BPU.

Earlier this month, 11 developers expressed interest to the federal Bureau of Ocean Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOMRE) in leasing areas off the coast of New Jersey for wind farms. The state is hoping to build at least 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind capacity, and possibly as much as 3,000 megawatts, according to a draft Energy Master Plan (EMP) released by the Christie administration this month.