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New DEP Rules a Barrier for Renewable Energy


Date : Mon, 26 Oct 2009 12:42:11 -0400

For Immediate Release

 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director, 609-558-9100

 

As BPU Goes to Factory Opening, DEP Rules a Barrier for Renewable Energy

New coastal rules make it easier to build a solar factory than to put in a solar installation

 

While we applaud the BPU for attending the opening of a solar panel plant today in Millville, it is unfortunate that DEP rules make it easier to build a solar factory than a solar farm.

 

The DEP's attempt to upgrade the Coastal Program rules for wind and solar energy installations fall short of enabling the state to meet its renewable energy goals. Instead, these rules present a new series of roadblocks that will make it very difficult and even impossible to put up windmills or solar installations in the coastal area.

 

The current DEP rules regulating wind and solar energy in coastal areas make it easier for a casino to be built on a pier than a windmill. These rules also regard windmills as power plants since they both generate electricity. New Jersey was supposed to change and upgrade these rules so we can meet our renewable energy goals for the future but the new proposal doesn't achieve that. Instead, the DEP's new rules will be a major impediment for the future of renewable energy in New Jersey.

 

"These rules needed updating for a long time but unfortunately these changes still make it extremely difficult to put in wind and solar installations in the coastal zone," New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said. "We believe that the DEP is being hypocritical by making it tougher to build wind or solar systems than it is to build shopping centers, race tracks or developments."

 

"We support tough standards for renewable energy to make sure any potential environmental impact is limited, however, the DEP's rules make it easier to build power lines or cell towers than wind or solar arrays. Instead of a step forward, these rules are really a step backwards and undermine New Jersey's efforts to deal with climate change and implement the Energy Master Plan," Tittel said.

 

DEP's proposed rules would:

 

Limit solar and wind installations to within 120 feet from an existing structure on already disturbed land. Solar panels are not impervious and should be allowed on fields and farms and, in many cases, further away from existing buildings. This rule is arbitrary and capricious and does nothing but stop people from putting in solar arrays. Taking into consideration the setbacks that towns require, the ability to put solar on land may be severely limited. It seems that the DEP would rather see a subdivision with solar on roofs than a solar farm. This rule also dramatically limits how much solar you can put on a piece of property.

 

Eliminate wind as a use on more than 400 square miles of New Jersey coastal areas. The criteria relating to appropriate scientific backup is so arbitrary that it does nothing other than stop the use of wind as a source of generating electricity.

 

Limit the size of a windmill pole to 100 feet with the tip of the blade not being more than 200 feet. This would severely hinder the ability to install any type of windmill that will generate a decent and worthwhile amount of electricity. This is arbitrary and limits the amount of electricity that could be generated.

 

Allow high-density development where windmills and solar are not permitted. Under the Coastal Rules, you can build at 80 percent impervious coverage, or 24 units per acre of housing in Lakewood, a regional center. This is the density of Hudson County. But, in the same place, you couldn't put up a windmill or solar panel on vacant land if it's not already disturbed. In Tuckerton, you can build at 70 percent impervious coverage - a density of 20 units per acre -but you can't put up a windmill or solar panels. Even in coastal, rural areas like Manchester and Little Egg Harbor Townships, you can build at 30 percent impervious coverage, or six to eight houses per acre, in forested and environmentally-sensitive areas. If you want to put up renewable energy in these areas, you're better off developing first.

 

Make it easier to built casinos, malls, shopping centers - even roller coasters - than windmills. Under these new rules, it is still easier to put up a casino than a windmill. A 10 story, 3 million square foot casino would be permitted on a pier in Atlantic City where only one windmill would be allowed. Under the rules, you could put in multiple roller coasters and Ferris wheels but still only one windmill.

 

Limit the swept area of the windmill to 2,000 square feet. This restriction limits installations to very small 20 KV windmills, which could provide electricity for a single family home and would not be worth the installation, especially considering the cost of environmental studies. Plus, the rule would limit the number of windmills permitted to be put up in one location to three, which is not realistic given limitations. Under this proposal, the Atlantic County Utilities Authority wind farm would not exist.

 

Encourage co-generation plants without designating a fuel. Instead of natural gas, coal could be used, something to which we strongly object. Further, while we're limiting the height of windmills, we're not limiting the height of smoke stacks or co-generation plants.

 

Limit offshore wind projects to one small 25 MW pilot project. To single out and give a break to just one company is not only arbitrary and capricious, but also smacks of politics. Pilot projects should be allowed for multiple companies or no companies at all.

 

Don't allow for changes in technology. The rules limit windmills to 5 MW but don't take into consideration that advances in technology may allow for smaller windmills to produce more electricity. The rules also fail to consider advances that have been made in mitigation or voidances.

 

None of the studies used to form these rules address the environmental impact to coastal New Jersey from rising sea levels or climate change. The studies only look at the direct effects to species from the windmills while failing to assess the impact that climate change will have on them and their habitats.

 

The scientific studies that were considered to form these rules are more than 10 years old, with one dating back to 1939. This old data taken from obsolete windmills does not show changes in design and new, better ways to mitigate negative impacts. All data was taken from large scale wind farms versus small arrays. Most of the studies come from areas with totally different geology and climate than that of New Jersey.

 

We're glad to see the DEP implementing protections for threatened and endangered species and their habitats. However, it is hypocritical to not enforce the same rules for residential, industrial and commercial development. For example, these limitations restrict solar farms in places where racetracks are allowed. The DEP allowed the Millville Racetrack, with all of its pollution, to be put in the middle of the one of the most important bird migration areas in the country but these rules wouldn't allow solar panel or windmills on that site.

 

Windmills are not permitted along Delaware Bayshore and a lot of our coastal areas but the DEP has allowed a power line along the coast through the Pinelands and wouldn't block a proposal for a massive power line with hundreds of monopoles cutting across the Delaware Bayshore. The DEP has refused to deal with cooling towers at nuclear power plants, which kill more species than a windmill less than 50 feet from a wetland. The DEP would permit the reopening of BL England coal plant, which will contaminate our fisheries and waterways with mercury, but wouldn't let a windmill be put up next to that power plant.

 

"It is important to have setbacks for wind and solar from streams and wetlands but then the same setbacks should be enforced for all other matters of development," Tittel said. "We're support protecting natural and scenic resources from the potential impacts of renewable energy but for some reason DEP doesn't apply the same rules for power lines, highway widenings, glass buildings, or cell towers. These rules are a double standard and the DEP should be ashamed."

 

"New Jersey has committed to putting in 1,000 MW of solar and 400 MW of on shore wind. These rules would make it almost impossible for the state to meet those requirements," Tittel said, adding that the Sierra Club is requesting that DEP re-propose the rules.

 

 

Kara Seymour, Program Assistant

NJ Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street

Trenton, NJ 08618

609.656.7612

(f) 609.656.7618

 <http://www.newjersey.sierraclub.org> www.newjersey.sierraclub.org

 

Received on 2009-10-26 09:42:11

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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