September 9, 2006
New Jersey

Gormley asks Corzine to tilt at 100 windmills

By Pete McAleer Statehouse Bureau, (609) 292-4935

TRENTON – A local lawmaker has asked the Corzine administration to build more than 100 windmills off Atlantic City’s shore.

State Sen. Bill Gormley, R-Atlantic, said Atlantic City would be the ideal site for Corzine to start toward his goal of converting New Jersey to alternative sources of energy.

State environmentalists praised the idea and said the offshore energy source would essentially give Atlantic City a medium-size, pollution-free power plant to protect against blackouts and provide clean energy to schools and other public buildings.

“If we can show the way here, it can open the door and make Atlantic City the leader of the nation for alternative energy,” New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.

Plans for windmill farms have been delayed in New Jersey and Massachusetts because of concerns that fish and bird life could be harmed and beachfront views might be tainted. Gormley, who owns a home near the shore in Margate, said Atlantic City should take advantage of an opportunity to provide cheaper, cleaner energy. The Atlantic County Utilities Authority is eight months into an onshore wind-farm project that is expected to save at least $365,000 a year.

“There was always great opportunity in New Jersey to be a leader in the development of American offshore wind,” Gormley said. “With what is effectively a phenomenally successful pilot program up and running in Atlantic City for the past eight months, the people of New Jersey have seen first hand that wind energy is clean, it is renewable and it works.”

A panel formed by former Gov. Richard J. Codey recommended an offshore pilot program of as many as 80 windmills. Gormley’s proposed wind farm would cost the state $350 million and generate enough power for 45,000 homes. Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley said the proposal would earn consideration, but construction on offshore farms is likely a couple years way.

“Gov. Corzine is wholeheartedly committed to this and will move forward with a wind energy pilot project in a responsible and timely manner,” Coley said. “The governor appreciates Senator Gormley’s heartfelt interest in being involved with this process and his proposal will receive all due consideration as we move forward.”

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson said the state will take an aggressive look at offshore wind farms in order to meet the administration’s goal of using renewable energy for at least 20 percent of the state’s power by the year 2020. Offshore windmills would also help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and slow down global warming. Finding an area with a local government that supports the project will be important, she said.

That support already appears to be in place in Atlantic County.

“Where else can you go to have a county that has experience, a casino industry that is going to have an enormous amount of investment that requires energy and a governor that is committed to alternative energy,” Gormley said. “Everybody’s talking about it. Now we have to go to the next level. You have a unique opportunity here.”

Atlantic County Utilities Authority Richard Dovey said the response to the state’s first wind farm has been “overwhelmingly positive.” An offshore farm would be even more effective, he said.

“The beauty of offshore wind is that the wind is generated at higher speeds than on shore and on a more consistent basis,” Dovey said.

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