Perception versus reality: Atlantic Shores CEO calls out misinformation around offshore wind

Bailouts for foreign companies, turbines blocking the view — and let’s not get started about the whales

It’s hard to figure out which bit of what he calls misinformation is more maddening to Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind CEO Joris Veldhoven: The idea that Atlantic Shores — a partnership between Shell New Energies US LLC and EDF Renewables — is a “foreign company” or that it requires a “bailout.”

So, he uses comedy to diffuse the situation.

Joris Veldhoven. (Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind)

“EDF and Shell are longtime U.S. companies,” he said. “Between the two, we have literally employed tens of thousands of people over decades and decades — and not all of them are called Joris. I can assure you of that.”

Yes, Veldhoven was born in the Netherlands. But, many of the top executives — and nearly all the employees at every level — were not, he said.

“Lots and lots of people that work in our leadership are as American as anyone in any state, east to west, north to south,” he said.

He also points out that the lease auctions for offshore wind were open to all.

“I hope, in years to come, you’ll see many more U.S. companies compete and be successful in developing offshore wind farms,” he said.

If the industry can get its finances figured out.

Veldhoven argues the bailout phrase isn’t accurate — that it doesn’t reflect the global economic upheaval of the past few years.

“The reality is we are coming out of COVID into a war and into an inflationary environment that was unforeseeable and unprecedented — and that we haven’t seen in our lifetime,” he said. “We have a significantly changed world.

“What we’re asking is, ‘Let’s take the agreement we had in the world we thought we lived in and bring it in line with what we see today.’”

Addressing those proclaiming bailouts for foreign companies is one thing, addressing those who say the industry is killing the whales — and will ruin the view at the Shore — is quite another.

“Let me be very clear on the whale misinformation,” he said. “It’s misinformation which is used as an argument of convenience — and it comes with very sloppy logic about offshore wind construction. Since that is not happening, it needs to be that engineering and geoscience survey vessels are killing whales.

“It’s complete nonsense.”

That does a disservice to the real issues, Veldhoven said.

“I’m very fed up with the fact it gets mixed in with more genuine concerns about affordability or even visual impact,” he said. “It is nuts that we’re talking about it, and it is very cynical antiwind opponents that keep drawing up that argument. It needs to stop.”

Veldhoven addressed the visual impact of the turbines, which will be miles out to sea. For him, seeing will be believing. And that soon will happen.

“In the next few months, turbines will be installed off the coast of New York that will occasionally be visible from shore,” he said. “Once they’re in, I think it will bring a reality of, ‘OK, the sky didn’t fall on our heads.’

“There’s going to be more of an opportunity to see it — without going to Europe.”

Where it’s no big deal, Veldhoven said.

“I come from a country where there is offshore wind,” he said. “And we go to the beach, we have fun, we take our kids out to swim. Believe me, nobody is worried about those turbines at the distance of 10-plus kilometers.”

All this being said, Veldhoven understands those trying to sway opinion against offshore wind are having an impact.

A recent Monmouth University poll said just over half of New Jersey residents (54%) favored placing electricity-generating wind farms off the state’s coast, while 40% oppose this action.

In 2019, wind energy support stood at a much higher 76%, with just 15% opposed. Prior to that, support for offshore wind farms was even higher, ranging between 80% and 84% in polls taken from 2008 to 2011.

Veldhoven took faith in the fact that offshore wind still has the support of the majority of New Jerseyans.

“Yes, it deteriorated and deteriorated quite significantly from 10 years ago, where offshore wind was an idea, to today, where there is a reality of construction, but there’s still strong support for offshore wind among New Jersey residents.”