Editorial: N.J. needs to get on the wind energy bandwagon

Source: By Editorial Board, Times of Trenton • Posted: Wednesday, August 9, 2017

It may take an act of Congress to move the Garden State toward embracing the benefits of offshore wind energy, but we’ll take our progress any way we can get it.

In a bipartisan effort, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced a bill to extend tax credits for developers investing in offshore wind projects in coastal waters – including our own Atlantic shoreline.

To underscore their sense of urgency, the lawmakers specified that the credit will be available only to projects that begin construction before Dec. 31, 2019.

Though national in scope, the measure has particular resonance for New Jersey.

After putting his signature on a bill to promote the industry seven years ago, Gov. Chris Christie has done little but whine that the necessary technology would be too costly to utility customers, while the state Board of Public Utilities fell well short of outlining a financial plan to subsidize the offshore wind farms.

Meanwhile, clean-energy advocates here could only look on in frustration and envy as the country’s first offshore wind farm started operating in Rhode Island last December.

Blown deadline leaves windmill farm dead in the water

“There is a bittersweet feeling because New Jersey should have been the first state with offshore wind,” Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said at the time.

The bill Congress is considering could have significant impact on two companies that have already begun conducting site assessments for projects.

U.S. Wind Inc. and DONG Energy sunk nearly $2 million into securing leases on approximately 300,000 acres off Jersey’s shore after a successful bidding process conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Their studies are expected to be finished next spring.

Christie’s love affair with fossil fuels puts him in line with the current occupant of the White House, but hugely out of step with the majority of his constituents.

Some 87-percent of respondents told a Fairleigh Dickinson poll last year that their state is not doing enough to implement clean-energy initiatives.

Although the Carper-Collins bill is no slam-dunk, proponents can take heart that the end of the Christie era might well signal refreshing new thinking, including renewed enthusiasm for wind-powered electricity.

In a May debate before the gubernatorial elections, Republican candidate Kim Guadagno said she would support the installation of wind farms along the coast.

Her Democratic rival, Phil Murphy, has sworn to create a new state energy master plan, which will include setting the most ambitious offshore wind target in the country: 3,500 megawatts of wind generation by 2030, enough to power 1.5 million homes.

It’s an ambitious goal, but there’s no reason why New Jersey shouldn’t take its rightful place as a leader in investing in the energy of tomorrow.