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State Shuts Down Onshore Wind Turbine Program After Major Malfunction

All three blades break free of newly installed turbine in what is labeled an "abnormal occurrence."

The state has shut down its on-land wind turbine program for the time being after an incident earlier this month when three blades suddenly came off a turbine at a farm and residence in Forked River.

The incident, which is under investigation, led the state Office of Clean Energy, to halt temporarily accepting applications for its Renewable Energy Incentive Program (REIP) wind project until authorities can determine how the blades became disengaged, according to Greg Reinert, a spokesman for the Board of Public Utilities (BPU).

The problem occurred on March 2 when a still unexplained major malfunction on a recently installed wind turbine caused all three blades to break loose, Reinert said. On March 8, the clean energy office staff directed the program coordinator to issue a notice to stakeholders advising that "Effective immediately, there is a temporary hold on all new REIP wind applications and wind rebate processing until further notice."

Ellen Carey, a spokeswoman with the American Wind Energy Association, said she had never heard of this type of accident. "I would say it is an abnormal occurrence," she said

Land and Sea

The state’s efforts to develop wind energy on land have been dwarfed by its goals to build a vibrant offshore wind industry, an ambition that aims to develop 3,000 megawatts of wind farms off the coast of New Jersey. Four developers have announced plans to build offshore wind farms from 3 miles to about 16 miles out in the ocean.

In comparison, the onshore wind efforts are much less ambitious, in part, because the wind resources pale in comparison to what is available offshore. Still, the Office of Clean Energy had overseen the installation of 38 wind systems, eligible for up to $5 million in rebates and grants, according to Reinert. The total installed capacity is 8.0291 megawatts.

In addition, there are another 37 wind projects approved as of March 18, with a total capacity of 4.64 megawatts and eligible for up to $3.5 million in state incentives..

It is uncertain when the office will begin accepting applications again. Like last year, the clean energy office has seen its funds diverted to help balance the state budget. Under Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, $52.5 million from the Clean Energy Fund will be set aside. Of that, $42.5 million will be used to pay energy costs at state buildings and another $10 million will be used for energy efficiency projects in state-owned buildings.

Just how big a role wind, both onshore and offshore, will play in New Jersey’s future could be decided by the new Energy Master Plan (EMP). The administration is overhauling the plan, which has been delayed, and is now not expected to be released to the public until mid-April at the earliest.

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