The state Senate and Assembly on Thursday approved a bill giving state regulators the authority to seize property or grant easements for transmission lines carrying electricity from offshore windmills to the power grid, even over local objections.
The companion bills, S3926 and A5894, authorize “certain offshore wind projects to construct power lines and obtain real property interests; grants BPU authority to supersede certain local governmental powers upon petition from offshore wind project.”
It now goes to the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy, a supporter of wind power who has set a target of generating 7,500 megawatts of electricity from windmills by 2035, enough to power 3.2 million homes. Wind power is a component of Murphy’s goal to reduce New Jersey’s net carbon emissions to zero by the year 2050.
Transmission lines coming from the hundreds of windmills now proposed off New Jersey’s Atlantic coast would have to cross through residential communities and environmentally sensitive shore areas to be connected to the power grid. And the bill, which gives the state Board of Public Utilities the authority to grant easements on behalf of private wind energy companies, has been opposed by conservation and consumer groups as well as local officials.
Some environmentalists support the bill as a necessary means of ensuring that the state is able to move toward clean energy and away from coal-burning power plants and other high-emissions energy sources.
The project closest to reality and the one that’s drawn the most scrutiny is by an American subsidiary of the Danish power company Orsted in conjunction with PSEG, projected for completion in 2024. The project, known as Ocean Wind, would include nearly 100 offshore turbines, each roughly 900 feet tall, about 15 miles southeast of Atlantic City.
Business people and others have opposed the project, and the whole idea of offshore windmills, as a threat to the natural beauty of New Jersey’s cherished coastline and the tourism industry that depends on it.
Nonetheless, with growing concern over climate change linked to carbon emissions – and evidence that the sea level along the Jersey Shore is rising rapidly as a result – both houses of the legislature approved the bill by roughly 2-1 margins on Thursday, with the Senate voting 25-12 followed by an Assembly vote of 49-26.
One of the bill’s key sponsors, Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, who chairs the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, expressed optimism that Murphy would sign it.
Smith applauded fellow lawmakers for their support despite the opposition, calling the approval, “absolutely, positively the right thing to do.”
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