By MADDY VITALE
Michael Shellenberger doesn’t live in New Jersey. He doesn’t even live on the East Coast. But the California resident, author and environmental advocate spoke about how an offshore wind farm project planned 15 miles off the coast from Atlantic City to Stone Harbor is bad for the environment, wildlife, marine life and the fishing industry.
Shellenberger, a best-selling author, was the guest speaker Thursday night at the Ocean City Music Pier.
“This is literally the worst project I have ever seen,” Shellenberger said of the wind farm proposed by the Danish energy company Orsted.
Shellenberger, who is a proponent for nuclear energy, spoke of how the wind farm would not be an efficient way to receive power, would take up too much real estate and not be a consistent source of power.
Orsted plans to build 99 wind turbines off the coast and would affect communities from Atlantic City to Stone Harbor, including Ocean City.
“The turbines would be about a football field high, separated by less than a mile,” Shellenberger told the crowd.
Shellenberger noted that the fishing industry would be affected by the turbines because of many things, including the proximity of the turbines and how they could harm marine life.
The safety of the North Atlantic Right Whale, which is already endangered, is a main concern, he noted.
“Fishermen here want to see the North Right Whale come back. They want to see fishing thrive,” Shellenberger said.
Orsted and its New Jersey-based energy partner, PSEG, expect to bring the wind farm online in 2024 and say it will produce enough power for about 500,000 homes.
Residents would also see rate increases due to the wind farm, an obstructed view of the ocean at certain times of day and there would be a risk to birds.
“They say 500,000 homes. Right there, that is misleading. Wind power is unreliable,” Shellenberger said, adding that nuclear power is much more reliable. Orsted has said that it will provide hundreds of jobs, however, that would be during the construction phase. After that, the estimate is 69 permanent jobs.
Shellenberger displayed in his presentation photos of maimed birds, killed by the turbines on land in other countries, including the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain.
“This is the tragedy of this particular technology,” he said.
“We don’t know how it will be lit up. The lights would be chaos — looking like pinwheels out there,” Shellenberger pointed out.
He also said much of the reason why the East Coast is so beautiful is its clear view of the ocean.
“It is a spectacular, scenic landscape with no industrial activity other than the few boats,” he said.
That would change, however, with the wind farm.
“Adding a source of energy with wind is more chaotic than solar (power) and you have to add more equipment and more people,” he said.
Shellenberger’s guest appearance was part of a forum organized by Save Our Shoreline – Stop the Wind Farms Off the Coast of NJ, a Facebook group opposed to the wind farm project.
Tricia Conte, of Ocean City, founder of Save Our Shoreline, said in an interview prior to the program, “We are very excited to have Michael Shellenberger here in Ocean City. He is presenting the side that no one else is telling us.”
Shellenberger wrote the nationally bestselling book “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All,” in which he argues that climate change is not the existential threat it is portrayed to be in popular media and environmental activism.
Before Shellenberger gave his talk, the audience viewed a video of Conte giving her views of the proposed wind farm.
“I felt compelled to do something,” Conte said in the video. “I am doing this to save the Jersey Shore for my children; grandchildren…The big push to industrialize the East Coast will ruin the East Coast.”
There was a Q&A at the end of the program in which Shellenberger answered questions about what they could do to stop the wind farm, protect the fishing industry and the North Right Whale.
Shellenberger said that the project is not a “done deal” and to keep fighting.
Ocean City Councilman Michael DeVlieger spoke out against the wind farm. He said he wants Ocean City residents to be educated.
“I want people to be educated on both sides of the story,” DeVlieger said.
He thanked Conte and the dignitaries who were in attendance.
“It is great to be here. This is a bi-partisan thing. It isn’t a Republican thing or a Democratic thing. It is a right thing,” DeVlieger said.
In addition to DeVlieger, several dignitaries attended the meeting, including former Gov. Jim Florio, Cape May County Commissioner E. Marie Hayes, former Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman, Ocean City Council President Bob Barr, City Council members Tom Rotondi and Keith Hartzell, as well as Barnegat Light Mayor Kirk Larson.