The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities this week awarded two new contracts to offshore wind companies to construct the next phase of a planned massive wind farm out in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of South Jersey.

Nevertheless, questions remain about the financial impact of the project on ratepayers, and how hundreds of giant wind turbines will affect tourism along the shore and impact schools of fish and whales out in the ocean.

The group Save our Shoreline has collected more than 10,000 signatures opposing the state’s wind farm plan, in part because it is expected to increase the cost of electricity in the near term, but no one is sure by how much.

When BPU President Joe Fiordaliso was asked what kind of an increase is anticipated for the average Jersey home or business, and how long the higher rates would be in effect once the wind farm project was constructed in 2035, he said “clean energy costs money, there’s no getting around it, however as time goes on those costs diminish.”

He said an example of this is in the solar industry, where costs are half of what they were 14 years ago.

“When we look at the clean energy industry we also have to look at the economic benefits that we’re getting, the thousands of jobs that are being created," Fiordaliso said.

He noted we should take into account the infusion of billions of dollars into the New Jersey economy from this kind of undertaking.

“We will be the supply chain for the entire east coast as far as off shore wind is concerned,” he said. “So you can just imagine the amount of money, the amount of economic enhancement that’s going to occur.”

Fiordaliso said when we’re talking about a shift to clean energy we need to consider up-front cost but also the economic benefit that will follow.

When asked about concerns that the electromagnetic field created by the wind farm may disrupt the migration of fluke and other fish and cause problems for whales that rely on sonar to navigate the seas, he said the BPU is working “with our friends in Europe.”

“They’ve done a lot of studies and [that] has not been a factor that we know of as of now," he said. “We have been working very closely with the Department of Environmental Protection to protect not only our recreational fisheries, but also our industrial fisheries.”

He said fishing is an important economic tool in the state.

He said fears about tiny specks of wind turbines on the horizon negatively impacting tourism are unfounded and he noted efforts are also underway to work with shipping lines to make sure their access to the Port of New York and New Jersey is not negatively impacted by the wind farm.

“We’re working with a whole bunch of industries to ensure the fact that to the best of our ability we’re creating, not destroying,” Fiordaliso said.

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