NJ Passes Bill to Foster Development of OffShore Wind Generation

In less than a month, the New Jersey legislature introduced and passed S-2036, the “Offshore Wind Economic Development Act.” Both the NJ Senate and the Assembly passed the Senate version on June 28, 2010. This swift action quickly followed NJ’s joining a 10-state Atlantic OffShore Wind Consortium.

The bill establishes an offshore wind renewable energy certificate program that will require a percentage of electricity sold in NJ to be from offshore wind energy. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities will be authorized to accept and approve applications for qualified offshore wind projects. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority will have the authority to provide financial assistance to qualified offshore wind projects and associated equipment manufacturers and assembly facilities in the state.

Concerns about potential environmental impacts have been soothed by the conclusions of a two year study led by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and announced in draft form on June 18, 2010. The study surveyed bird species, marine mammals, sea turtles and fish off the NJ coast and assessed the likely impact from the construction, operation and decommissioning of an offshore wind farm. The final report will provide the necessary data to screen sites, estimate potential impacts on sea animals and mitigation. NJDEP Commissioner Martin noted, “We now have the science and data needed to take the first steps towards making wind energy projects a reality for New Jersey. It puts us in the forefront environmentally, while also providing New Jersey with a great economic boost from jobs that will be created by this new green industry.” The final report is expected to be released in July.

In testimony before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, on June 23, Commissioner Martin may have dampened NJ’s enthusiasm for such projects when he candidly acknowledged that wind power is expensive compared to the cost of electricity NJ consumers currently pay. Wind power is expected to cost 18 to 24 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to 11 cents. Hal Bozarth, Executive Director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, cast more doubt on the promise of wind energy, stating, “The economic studies I’ve seen indicate on the wind farms side of things, you don’t create a lot of jobs.”

In spite of some naysayers, Governor Christie is expected to sign the bill.

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