“You can’t help but look up,” Tom Lauletta, Vice President of the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) and my tour guide, said as I squinted into the sun, standing beneath a wind turbine that was getting some repairs.
The Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm, the first in the Garden State, helps power the ACUA Wastewater Treatment Facility in Atlantic City, NJ. The farm is currently maintained by GE and developed/co-owned by a partnership between Babcock & Brown (now Pattern Energy Group LP) & Community Energy, and is composed of five GE 1.5-MW turbines.
Tom, a PE & CME and a proud employee of the ACUA, has a real appreciation for the wind turbines and how they have benefited his facility. He explained the history of the Wastewater Treatment plant and how it grew with the development in the region.
Because of the size of the facility and amount of energy used to conduct the wastewater treatment processes, the daily operational needs require about 2.5-MW of energy each day, making the ACUA an ideal candidate for renewable energy-- specifically wind. The high demand, combined with the high wind potential and the lack of zoning regulations made it an extremely conducive environment for the developers. They are able to use between 30-70% (the high was this past winter) of the power from wind generation that translates to about 70% of the facility’s needs.
This is the first “urban” wind farm and the first combined wind/solar-powered facility; in addition to the turbines, there are 500-kW of photovoltaic solar panels on site. They also have an electric “GEM” (Global Electric Motors) car on the grounds, along with a car-charging station. The ACUA is continuing to make efforts to make the facility more “green” and they’re working toward being LEED certified.
Tom views the Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm as a prime example of a mutually-beneficial relationship between public and private entities because of the arrangement between the developer/user to purchase the wind energy at a set rate for 20 years. In fact, the ACUA has nearly reached the $2 million mark in savings just since the turbines came online in December 2005.
There was little resistance locally to the installation of the turbines. In fact, the local community has “embraced” the wind turbines, according to Tom: Since the turbines became operational in 2005, they have given over 14,000 tours. They actually had to put in a security gate because people were wandering all over the grounds to catch a close-up glimpse of the turbines. Even those at the nearby casinos have shown an interest in the wind farm.
The ACUA works closely with other regional institutions to ensure that the local community stays invested in the project. The NJ Audubon Society monitors bird fatalities, of which there have only been three since 2005, and they all coincided with other variable conditions, such as the Atlantic City Airshow, an annual aerial acrobatic event with performances by private and military planes. During the development of the project, the ACUA offered a bus trip to about 50 local residents who were concerned about the sound issue. They visited an operating wind farm in Pennsylvania and concluded that sound was a non-issue; in fact, the noise from traffic and other sources is much louder than turbines on the ACUA property.
The Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm has met and exceeded the challenges that are often associated with introducing wind to an unfamiliar community. The ACUA has done much to be a leader in environmental innovation and has helped set the stage for New Jersey’s welcoming of offshore wind.
Please see AWEA's Flickr page for more photos of the facility.
Guest Blogger Anyah Dembling