Can Congress Help NJ’s Offshore Wind Industry Get Cranking?

Source: By Tom Johnson, NJSpotlight • Posted: Thursday, August 3, 2017

In a push to spur development of an offshore wind industry, bipartisan legislation to extend tax credits for investments in the renewable energy in coastal and other waters across the United States is now before Congress.

If enacted, the legislation could be significant for New Jersey, because its efforts to develop offshore wind farms have stalled, allowing other states on the Eastern Seaboard to take the lead.

It was seven years ago later this month that Gov. Chris Christie signed with fanfare a bill aimed at promoting the sector, but his administration cooled on the policy, never implementing a key aspect of the law. Now offshore wind developers say it could be 2023 before wind turbines are producing electricity off the coast.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Tom Carver a Democrat from Delaware and Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, would extend an investment tax credit that is only available to projects that start construction before December 31, 2019.

Under the bill, a 30 percent tax credit on the investment in offshore wind would be provided to the first 3,000 megawatts that come into service, a provision likely to benefit the two developers seeking to build wind farms off the Jersey coast.

“Investing in clean, renewable energy sources like wind is both good for the economy and our environment,’’ said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a sponsor of the bill. “New Jersey, with its vast Atlantic shoreline, is well-positioned to benefit from this legislation.’’

Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, agreed. “Offshore wind in the Atlantic is a gold mine for clean energy,’’ he said. “We need Congress to get offshore wind off the ground.’’

It also may take a new governor. Christie touted the offshore wind legislation when he signed it seven years ago, but never pushed its implementation, fearing its cost would drive up energy bills in New Jersey.

The state Board of Public Utilities failed also to develop a financing mechanism to subsidize the offshore wind farms, a component developers say was crucial to getting Wall Street to invest in the projects. The agency also repeatedly turned down a small pilot project three miles off the coast of Atlantic City, saying it was not economically viable.

Nevertheless, two developers spent nearly $2 million securing leases on approximately 300,000 acres off the Jersey Shore. The developers, U.S. Wind Inc. and DONG Energy, are conducting site assessments off the coast, which are not expected to be completed until next spring.

The nation’s first offshore wind farm, a 30-megawatt facility off Rhode Island, became operational last December.