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New Jersey Senate approves bill allowing windmills on Atlantic City piers

State Senate lawmakers approved a bill Monday that could bring wind turbines to Atlantic City’s Steel Pier.

The bill, which now goes to Gov. Chris Christie, would change the technical rules on wind turbines to allow them within 500 feet of the high water line along Atlantic City beaches.

In practice, that means they could be stationed on Steel Pier and other structures. Currently, only hydro-electric facilities are allowed to use those sites.

Bill Catanoso, co-owner of the pier on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, has said he plans to erect windmills at the amusement park. The turbines would stand about 230 feet tall, including the blades, and would help power the amusements.

Other wind-energy projects are in the works there as well. Cape May-based Fisherman’s Energy hopes to build a $175 million, six-turbine demonstration project 2.8 miles off Tennessee Avenue.

The idea prompted immediate excitement among lawmakers and locals when it went public this spring.

Lawmakers amended the bill in late October to make clear that only an existing pier with a current primary use would be eligible to add turbines. That provision stops newly constructed piers cropping up just for windmills.

The bill specifies that it applies only in municipalities where gaming is authorized.

“Atlantic City’s Steel Pier is an important part of our city’s history, and could play an important role in our future,” said Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, who sponsored the Senate bill. “By allowing the Steel Pier to act as a test site for wind energy production, we can put Atlantic City residents to work, and we can generate clean, renewable energy which reduces our reliance on foreign oil.”