New Jersey sets sail with new offshore wind policy

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed into law on Thursday a bill that would spur economic growth through the development of the state’s renewable energy resources, particularly offshore wind.

The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act mandates that New Jersey should generate at least 1,100 megawatts of electricity – enough to power approximately 250,000 to 330,000 households – from qualified offshore wind projects.

The new law will establish an offshore renewable energy certificate program that requires an electric power supplier to purchase offshore wind energy certificates at a specific price under a time period required by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

If a shortage of renewable energy certificates occurs, the power supplier would need to pay an offshore wind alternative compliance charge established by the board. The utilities will refund the wind alternative compliance fee directly to the power consumers.

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In addition, the new legislation will provide financial assistance and tax credits to companies that construct manufacturing, assemblage and water access facilities that support offshore wind development.

«The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act will provide New Jersey with an opportunity to leverage our vast resources and innovative technologies to allow businesses to engage in new and emerging sectors of the energy industry,» said Mr. Christie.

In June, New Jersey entered a memorandum of understanding with Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina to establish an offshore wind consortium that will facilitate federal-state cooperation in commercial wind development on the Outer Continental Shelf off the Atlantic coast.

The state also established an energy policy in April that will make traditional and renewable energy in the state cheaper and more reliable.

Offshore wind development has been the subject of long-drawn debates in the United States. Critics point out that placing wind turbines out in the open seas entail steep costs – a major obstacle that had barred the 468-MW Cape Wind project from pushing through.

An offshore wind farm costs an estimated $4,600 per kilowatt, while its onshore counterpart only costs about half the price at $2,400 per kW, said the United States Offshore Collaborative.

However, the recent oil spill at the Gulf of Mexico may have changed critics’ opinion on offshore wind farms.

“The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico opened our eyes to the need for clean, sustainable energy that we can produce here at home,” said Stephen Sweeney, senator of Salem and primary author of the bill.

“Countries like China are already investing heavily and the United States should too if it wants to reap the benefits and not fall behind,» added Tom Kean Jr., senator of Essex and co-author of the bill.



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