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New Jersey and Offshore Wind, Perfect Together -- According to Report

State has greatest potential in country to deliver power from offshore wind, capture lead in emerging industry, but it has to act fast

wind farm

New Jersey has the most potential of any state to produce power from offshore wind, but it needs to act now if it wants to become a hub of an emerging industry, according to clean-energy advocates.

Using data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a new report shows that as much as 1,700 megawatts of wind power could be built in the state in the next five years with the right policies in place, enough power for more than a half a million homes.

The report, produced by the Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center, comes on the heels of action by Congress and the federal government that advocates hope will jump-start long-delayed efforts to develop offshore wind along the Jersey coast.

“If we don’t move now, we will lose that opportunity,’’ said state Sen. James Whelan (D-Atlantic), referring to the prospect of creating an offshore-industry hub in the state. “Those are realities that didn’t exist before.’’

Last month, Congress extended lucrative tax credits for developing offshore wind farms, eliminating uncertainty whether as to whether those incentives would still be available. In November, the federal government also auctioned off 340,000 acres along the Jersey Shore to two developers to build wind farms.

But nothing will happen unless the state creates a financing mechanism to allow wind-farm operators to get paid from utility customers for the electricity their turbines produce. The Christie administration has failed to come up with such a plan -- five-and-a-half years after being told to do so under a law enacted in 2010.

Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, noted that for years the state Board of Public Utilities said it was waiting for the federal government to offer offshore-wind leases, but that changed with the November sale in which two developers paid nearly $2 million all told for the leases.

“It’s a gold mine that has been left untapped,’’ O’Malley said of the offshore-wind potential along the coast. “It is time for the Christie administration to get moving on offshore wind.’’

Last year, the BPU retained a consultant to help it write the regulations governing how developers will be paid for producing power from offshore- wind farms, but no proposal has been made public yet.

Without the regulations, developers have said it will be nearly impossible to line up financing for the projects, which could cost $1 billion or more to build. No offshore wind farms, primarily because of the cost, have been built in the United States, although they are common overseas.

Under the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, states will be required to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants that contribute to global warming. Clean-energy advocates argue that offshore wind offers one of the best ways to achieve those goals. The report issued yesterday projected New Jersey could reduce carbon pollution by more than 5 million tons if it built 1,700 megawatts of offshore-wind capacity.

“To avoid the worst impacts of global warming, we need to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy,’’ O’Malley said. “We need to do everything we can to develop abundant, pollution-free wind power off the Jersey Shore.’’

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