April 5, 2019 | Number of The Day
New Jerseyans who support offshore wind farms

There’s overwhelming support in New Jersey for the development of wind farms off the state’s coast. A new Monmouth University Poll has found that three-quarters of residents (76 percent) give a thumbs-up to such development. Of those, 48 percent said it should be a major priority over the next decade.

The poll suggests that the cost of developing wind farms may be a key issue, however. It found that 45 percent of residents would oppose developing more wind farms if it caused their electricity rates to increase; slightly fewer (41 percent) would still favor forging ahead in that event. However, a majority (58 percent) would be supportive even if their electricity rates increased, if they also believed this would significantly reduce carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.

“This could be tricky for clean energy advocates,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Support for wind energy could drop once New Jersey ratepayers become aware of any development costs they will have to bear. However, they could become more willing to shoulder some of that investment if they are convinced it will lead to real environmental benefits.”

On the possible effects on their utility bills, New Jerseyans are a little hazy. Nineteen percent figure their rates would go up for the next few years, 35 percent believe their rates would decrease, and another 35 percent think they would stay the same. In the long term, a majority (52 percent) expect rates would be lower than if no new wind farms were developed; 24 percent expect no change in rates a decade from now if the state develops more wind energy; 15 percent expect rates would be higher 10 years from now.

The poll found a big enthusiasm gap between people’s support for wind farms and some other energy options. Only 30 percent of residents said they favor drilling for oil and gas off the state’s coast while twice as many (61 percent) oppose it. Further development of nuclear power in the state got even less support; only 26 percent would favor building another nuclear power plant in New Jersey, while two-thirds (67 percent) would oppose it.