Timed to coincide with a Monmouth University poll released today that shows New Jersey residents strongly support developing more renewable energy, the Sierra Club has begun a hefty advertising campaign to promote offshore wind power.
The campaign is urging Gov. Chris Christie to implement the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, which he signed into law three years ago, but whose progress has stalled.
The governor’s office referred all questions about the announcement to Christie’s political campaign, citing the fact that Sierra Club New Jersey endorsed his Democratic gubernatorial opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono.
Kevin Roberts, a Christie campaign spokesman, said the governor has made the development “of renewable energy sources a priority, including solar and offshore wind.”
Roberts called Sierra Club New Jersey executive director Jeff Tittel “a discredited partisan who opposes and criticizes the governor at every turn…He’s not a serious critic, and certainly not on this issue. “
In response, Tittel, who calls himself politically undeclared, said he has agreed with Christie on certain issues, most recently when he supported the administration’s stepped-up effort to get homeowners’ permission to build dunes in areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
“When they don’t like the message, they attack the messenger. It’s an old political trick,” Tittel said. “The governor doesn’t want to go forward with wind, so instead he’ll attack the Sierra Club or myself as a way to take attention away from his record on wind.”
The Sierra Club said in a news release that its “aggressive” ad campaign for offshore wind power will appear in the form of billboards, and in newspapers and online. A full-page ad ran in today’s Star-Ledger.
The campaign tagline: “The Jersey Shore is known for a lot of things. Let’s make wind power one of them,” refers to the location of proposed wind farms, to be situated in state – and, longer-term – federal waters off Atlantic City.
The campaign features billboards along Interstate 95 and Route 29 into Trenton, along with the newspaper ads. It will also create an online petition urging Christie to make renewable energy a priority.
The online ads will appear in Facebook, Google “and a number of high traffic websites throughout the state, largely targeting people in the Trenton area and along the Shore,” Teplitzky said. The organization does not disclose how much it spends on ads.
The Monmouth University Polling Institute conducted the survey earlier this month on behalf of the Sierra Club. It said 783 adults were polled.
The survey found 75 percent of Garden State residents favor building electricity generating windmills off the Jersey coast. Of that group, 46 percent answered they strongly favored it, and 29 percent answered they somewhat favored it.
The survey showed 13 percent opposed building wind farms, while 11 percent had no opinion on the issue.
About 65 percent said building offshore wind power would help the economy and the same amount would support Gov. Chris Christie making offshore wind development in New Jersey a priority for his administration.
New Jersey has been a leader in solar energy in the last few years, ranking fourth in total installations in one recent poll. Installing offshore wind farms has been a trickier proposition, not just in New Jersey, but in the rest of the country.
There is just one offshore wind turbine in the United States. That one, spinning off the coast of Maine, generates only enough energy to power a few homes.
In July, the state Board of Public Utilities rejected the latest plan for a 25-megawatt offshore wind farm, saying New Jersey taxpayers would be on the hook for too much money should the anticipated federal grants fall through. Further BPU hearings for the plan are anticipated to be next month.
The five turbine demonstration wind farm to be built in state waters three miles off the coast of Atlantic City, was first proposed in 2011, from a coalition called Fishermen’s Energy.
The wind farm would power 10,000 homes and cost $200 million. Officials of the group have said its construction will bring more than $150 million in economic activity to New Jersey and create 250 jobs.
Like other proposed wind-energy projects in New Jersey, the demonstration wind farm will rely on “Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates” to recoup millions of dollars investors will have sunk into the project. Money from those so-called ORECs would be passed on to New Jersey ratepayers to subsidize wind power, which like solar power, does not yet pay for itself.
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