When Chris Christie became governor almost eight years ago, there was a lot of discussion about New Jersey becoming a leader in wind energy.

DONG Energy and U.S. Wind Inc. put forth plans to build wind farms out in the ocean off the Jersey coast but they have not gotten approval to move ahead from the state Board of Public Utilities.

State Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, who chairs the Energy and Environment Committee, said developing this industry would make sense because it would help reduce carbon dioxide levels and produce very inexpensive energy.

He pointed out in Texas, where there are several wind farms, “there are occasions where the energy is so cheap that they have to pay consumers to buy it. There’s that much of it.”

He stressed “this is not a new or untried technology. You can go to Europe and you can see these huge wind farms that are off the coast. They’re generating gigs and megs of all kinds of electrical energy.”

Massachusetts and Rhode Island have already started building wind farms off of their coastlines, so he says the time for New Jersey to move on this is now.

Smith said not only can wind produce clean, inexpensive energy, but also it could give us “the possibility of locating a turbine manufacturing center in the state; it could result in hundreds, maybe thousands of new jobs that would pay very, very good salaries.”

He pointed out if wind farms were built off the Jersey coast, turbine towers would be dropped 100 to 150 feet into the ocean, standing 300 feet into the air and the blade would be as large as 300 feet across.

Smith said he’s hopeful wind energy can move forward more quickly next year when a new governor will take office.

He noted legislation was passed seven years ago to authorize a wind energy tax credit stimulation program, but it was never approved by the BPU.

When the BPU was asked to comment on why wind energy hasn’t moved forward, spokesman Peter Peretzman issued a detailed email response, which reads:

The critics of the New Jersey’s renewable and energy efficiency accomplishments either are unaware or choose to ignore the facts and successes of the last eight years. For instance, NJ has the 4th most installed solar capacity in the country and 94% of that capacity was installed during the Christie Administration.

With the enactment of the Offshore Wind and Economic Development Act, New Jersey is one of the leaders in efforts to support sustainable offshore wind-to-energy that protects ratepayers, improves the environment and delivers net economic develop benefits.

Over the last five years, as the Board evaluated and denied the Fishermen’s Energy application and worked with BOEM (the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) on the auction of federal leases off New Jersey’s coast, the cost of developing offshore wind has fallen by approximately 32%, which represents enormous savings for residential and business ratepayers.

Since BOEM awarded two federal leases off of New Jersey, the BPU has been in conversations with the two developers holding those leases and also has been working with Rutgers University researchers to advance offshore wind resource and forecast models that are very important to the integration of offshore wind into the PJM Grid.

Moving forward, the developers have a number of significant tasks to undertake to evaluate the feasibly and costs with the OSW programs. The next major milestone is for the developers to submit a Site Assessment Plan (SAP) to BOEM. However, both developers already requested an extension to file their SAP.

Once BOEM approves a developer’s SAP, the developer has five years to conduct site assessment studies necessary for the Construction and Operation Plan (COP), which must also be submitted to BOEM. During this time the BPU will continue to work with the developers and other stakeholders on a number of tasks to ensure an offshore wind program that works for ratepayers and the market.

The BPU is working in cooperation with the federal government, the New Jersey offshore wind lease holders, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection and other interested stakeholders to ensure New Jersey’s offshore wind resources are responsibly developed and to ensure net economic and environmental benefits for New Jersey ratepayers.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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