Like it did with solar energy, the New Jersey government will now make offshore wind energy generation a priority by instating a credit program and offering incentives for this up-and-coming technology.
Gov. Chris Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, bill S-2036, into law on Aug. 19. The bill, which amends a law regarding renewable energy that was first signed into law in 1999 and amended in 2007, was introduced June 10; and was approved by the Senate on June 28 and the Assembly on June 29.
Primary sponsors of the bi-partisan bill included Senate President Stephen Sweeney.
Like New Jersey’s Solar Renewable Energy Credit program, the bill creates an offshore wind renewable energy certificate program that calls for a certain percentage of electricity sold to be from offshore wind energy. That percentage, developed by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, will support at least 1,100 megawatts of generation from qualified offshore wind projects.
It will also make available financial assistance and tax credits through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to qualified offshore wind projects and associated manufacturers and assembling facilities.
The governor said in an August press release that he hopes the new law create jobs and grow the state’s economy.
“Developing New Jersey’s renewable energy resources and industry is critical to our state’s manufacturing and technology future. My administration will maintain a strong commitment to utilizing energy as industry in our efforts to make our state a home for growth, as well as a national leader in the wind power movement,” Christie said.
In another step towards the development of offshore wind farms, this summer Christie signed a Memorandum of Understanding with other nine other East Coast governors establishing the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium. The consortium will facilitate federal-state cooperation for commercial wind development off of the Atlantic coast.
Last summer, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar granted five exploratory leases for renewable wind energy production off the coasts of New Jersey and Delaware. These projects, three of which are off the coast of New Jersey, are from six to 18 miles offshore.
One of those companies, Fishermen’s Energy of Cape May, which is also planning to develop a smaller wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City, publicly applauded the New Jersey legislature for passing the act.
Daniel Cohen, President of Fishermen’s Energy, said that the legislation was key to helping New Jersey become a leader in the industry.
Fishermen’s Energy views their demonstration scale offshore wind project, to be located 2.8 miles off the coast, as a catalyst for the industry, here. Cohen said he hopes to build the pilot project next year, dependent upon the state’s finalizing of permits and setting a price for the renewable energy credits this fall.
Sen. Jim Whelan, who cosponsored the bill, was hopeful that the bill would positively affect development, but acknowledged that it would come at a cost to users.
“Look, this is the future. Very simply, we can’t keep relying on fossil fuels, foreign sources for our energy,” he said.
“In the short term, I wish I could tell you that it’s going to reduce utility bills, but I’d be lying because these installations are not cheap. They require public support, but you know it has to be done.”
Whelan said that energy independence is a necessity for our country and that he hopes New Jersey will lead the nation in that goal.
“Atlantic City is already a leader on a relatively small scale. We’re hopeful that this bill will help make New Jersey a leader,” he said, noting the Atlantic County Utilities Authority wind farm located in Atlantic City.
Whelan said the Atlantic City site has proven to be cost efficient and popular to tourists.
ACUA President Rick Dovey also said that the bill, although it won’t directly benefit the ACUA, presents an opportunity for New Jersey to do something that isn’t being done in the States. Dovey said there are already 40 offshore wind farms in Europe.
“We’re ideally suited because we have a lot of power usage in New Jersey,” Dovey said, adding that the state also has a relatively low continental shelf off the coast.
New Jersey also has two deep ports that would be ideal for the construction of the wind farms.
“We’re competing here, it’s a race,” he said.
And Rhode Island, Delaware and Virginia are not far behind, he said.
Dovey said there is not one answer to becoming an energy independent nation. Like any new technology, it is expensive to start out with, but prices and technology improve everyday, he said.
“In New Jersey, 50 percent of our power is imported from the Ohio Valley, coal plants,” Dovey said. “Here, we can begin to generate electricity in New Jersey…We do have wind offshore and it’s probably one of the best places in the world; and we need to tap into that. It’s not going to replace nuclear power; it’s not going to replace coal. It will begin to offset that and will also help ignite…potentially a whole new industry.”
Opponents of the law claim that it unjustly taxes residents. Liberty and Prosperity 1776, Inc. Executive Director Seth Grossman and Steve Lonegan of Americans for Prosperity held a rally at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority Wastewater and Windmill Site on Sept. 2 to raise awareness and protest the act.
“We had about 40 or 50 people there and I think we raised awareness to the fact that everybody’s electric bill is padded with a hidden tax of 25 to 35 percent,” Grossman said.
He said that 25 percent was derived from an estimation “based on the fact of what electric bills were three to four years ago when they added these charges because fuel prices have not gone up.” He said that Rutgers University confirmed the figure.
“Until now, most people in New Jersey thought that these new windmills and solar panels weren’t costing them anything, but now that they see that when they get a $300 electric bill, $100 is paying for that,” Grossman said.
He said the next step is political action.
Some of Grossman’s other claims are that windmills are expensive to maintain and repair and furthermore, don’t reduce dependence on coal, oil or natural gas because of the need for a constant flow of electricity on the power grids.
“Every time solar or wind energy stops, back-up coal and natural gas generators must instantly crank up to keep up the level of juice in the grid,” Grossman wrote in a recent press release.
Dovey’s response to the reliability of windmills and solar panels is battery technology.
“That’s an answer that’s coming,” he said.
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