Rutgers Gets $2 Million to Develop 3-D Offshore Wind Map

BPU grant comes as commercial offshore wind developers are starting to launch feasibility studies

New Jersey is taking another step to assess its potential for developing offshore wind farms, a strategy that has emerged as a top priority of the Christie administration and many environmental groups.

The state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) yesterday awarded a $1.87 million contract to Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Science to build a three-dimensional map to detail the offshore wind potential of the Jersey coast.

The grant comes at a time when three developers of offshore wind farms are launching pilot studies to determine whether their projects are feasible based on how much electric capacity offshore wind farms can generate.

The latest project will complement those efforts and will be provided to other offshore wind developers once completed. The Rutgers’ map could lower the cost of future offshore wind projects, according to Michael Winka, director of the BPU’s Office of Clean Energy. The grant will fund a two-year project by the institute, which has been in the forefront of efforts to assess offshore wind potential.

According to the U.S. Energy Department, the U.S. has vast offshore wind resources, particularly off the eastern seaboard and in the Great Lakes. There are approximately 5,000 megawatts of projects that have been proposed in the U.S., including about 1,100 off the New Jersey coast.

To date, the Christie administration has embraced efforts to attract offshore wind developers to New Jersey, endorsing legislation that would create $100 million in tax credits if a wind turbine manufacturer located in either the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey or the South Jersey Port District.

The state’s Master Energy Plan calls for 3,000 megawatts of electricity to be generated from wind farms by 2020, a prospect some in the business community call unrealistic. They also warn that if that goal is met it could lead to big spikes in customer’s electric bills, because offshore wind is more expensive than conventional power. The three projects in New Jersey have a projected pricetag of $7 billion, according to estimates by the BPU.

BPU Commissioner Jeanne Fox noted the state has been very aggressive in assessing the environmental impacts of offshore wind farms, a policy that has put New Jersey in the lead in efforts to attract the clean energy technology.

While the latest study will only complement the efforts of projects in the state to develop offshore wind, Winka said the research should lower the cost for other developers who want to build the renewable energy technology offshore.