About 70 windmills will sprout in the ocean off the Jersey Shore, producing enough energy to power some 125,000 homes.
The Board of Public Utilities on Wednesday gave its OK to a pilot project to erect the windmills between three to 20 miles off the state’s shores.
The BPU will solicit private companies to build the mini wind-power station. If the pilot project succeeds, more windmills could be built.
The ocean is New Jersey’s windiest location, but the prospect of harvesting that energy has been controversial.
Some ocean and birding advocates are concerned about the potential harm to aquatic life and the prospect of ruining ocean views that bring in tourism dollars. But other environmental groups have complained about the overly cautious approach New Jersey has taken to developing greenhouse gas-free power source.
“We don’t want to wait another five years for windmills to get constructed when the effects of global warming are getting worse every year,” said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
Under the plan, potential bidders have until Jan. 16 to submit proposals for the wind project. The BPU will make its selection in March.
The location of the wind turbines has yet to be determined. They will be built somewhere along a 72-mile stretch of ocean between Seaside Park and Stone Harbor.
While some work on the pilot study can go forward once a company is selected, the BPU said construction must wait for the state Department of Environmental Protection to finish a mapping study of the ocean to rule out places where wind turbines could cause harm – such as locations near fisheries and seal and bird migratory paths.
The Department of Commerce also is analyzing the potential economic impact.
“In taking this approach, the administration is responsibly exploring the potential development of offshore wind in New Jersey,” BPU President Jeanne M. Fox said in a statement.
By Colleen Diskin
5 October 2007
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