By Lauren Wanko
The Garden State has the highest potential for offshore wind energy — says Environment New Jersey — but Director Doug O’Malley insists other states will be leaping to the forefront.
“New Jersey can’t reap the benefit of offshore wind if we aren’t building the turbine,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley says the 2010 Offshore Wind Economic Development Act could make New Jersey the leader in offshore wind energy, but more than three years after the bill was signed, there’s still no progress.
“The Christie administration and the governor have failed to create a state offshore wind program now is the time for the governor to follow through on this commitment and for the BPU to issue and offshore wind program,” O’Malley said.
Senate President Steve Sweeney blames the Board of Public Utilities.
“When we advanced this bill in 2010, it was the purpose of creating 1,000 jobs and maybe more, good paying jobs and we charged the BPU, because we thought they were capable and competent with getting this done,” Sweeney said. “BPU demonstrates to me they can’t do anything right and it’s costing jobs because they’ve had plenty of time to get this done.”
There are no offshore wind turbines in the United States, while Europe has an expanding industry. New Jersey has an on-shore wind farm in Atlantic City and one of state’s largest windmills is in Bayonne. O’Malley says the coast of Atlantic City is a sweet spot for offshore wind energy.
“It’s a combination of factors. The largest is the wind speed, especially 15 miles off Atlantic City is especially strong,” O’Malley said.
Critics argue offshore wind energy is too expensive to invest in. And low natural gas prices make the industry less appealing.
“You want a portfolio, you don’t want everything in one basket. Right now, natural gas is low and that’s great but you want to have diversity of all these other industries because once you build the mills, the energy source is free. It’s wind,” Sweeney said.
“We really have to look at this as what’s not gonna be the cheapest energy sources over the next, two, three, five years. What are doing to the environment in the next 10, 20, 30 years?” asked Sen. Jim Whelan.
Environment New Jersey argues the Garden State’s offshore wind industry could reduce the global warming pollution by 825,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018. That’s equivalent to the carbon pollution produced by more than 171,000 cars.
Sweeney says he’ll do whatever necessary to move forward on New Jersey’s Offshore Wind Industry, whether that means new legislation or litigation.