Gov. Jon Corzine supports building a big, offshore windmill installation to see whether wind farms can add much-needed clean power to New Jersey’s electrical grid. That’s a fine goal – so long as the governor isn’t just blowing hot air when he says he won’t allow any construction until studies prove a wind farm won’t turn into a financial or ecological sea mon ster.
Unfortunately for the governor, he hasn’t been doing a good job of convincing wind doubters that he’s not out to build first and answer the scientific and ecological questions later. Some reputable environmental groups, including the American Littoral Society, are convinced Corzine believes offshore windmills are a done deal, studies or not.
It’s easy to see why. The administration is moving ahead with plans to seek proposals from wind farm developers even as the Department of Environmental Protection and the state Commerce Commission get ready to order studies on the potential consequences of offshore wind farming.
The administration should do two things to clear the air on wind power. First, Corzine should say flat out that he won’t move forward unless the needed studies show the windmills won’t make problems, whether for sea creatures, beach tourists or anyone else.
Second, the Board of Public Utilities, which is putting together the upcoming solicita tion for wind farm proposals, should make the governor’s vow of being properly cautious a formal part of the solicitation language. That way, everyone will be on notice that science and economics – not the dreams of wind farm developers, no matter how well-inten tioned – are driving the exploration process.
It could take some time for the scientific and economic questions to be settled. The DEP hasn’t awarded its environmental study yet, and the effort could take as long as 18 months. But even the governor’s blue-ribbon panel on wind power said last year that a test project shouldn’t move forward until the studies are done.
Just recently, a top Long Island Power Authority official recommended canceling a proposed wind farm project off the island’s south shore because the cost had risen to a stagger ing $700 million-plus. Another wind project in Texas also was canceled for financial reasons, and one off Massachusetts has been becalmed by many of the same questions that wind power critics here are raising.
All that means New Jersey is better off moving slowly on an initiative that could radically affect shipping, ocean life and the quality of the view from the beach.
6 September 2007
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