Editorial: Offshore wind remains one of New Jersey’s great untapped resources.

Source: By Editorial Board, Daily Record • Posted: Tuesday, August 22, 2017

It will remain that way for some time to come. But advocates and energy companies continue to lay the groundwork for an industry that essentially doesn’t yet exist here, hopeful that the next decade will usher in wind farms rather than oil rigs off the Jersey Shore.

A new state administration can only help the cause. Gov. Chris Christie has been no fan of green-energy initiatives, and has done next to nothing to advance the cause for offshore wind. In 2010, in his earliest phase as governor, when he was still pretending to be somewhat of a moderate, Christie declared himself New Jersey’s top advocate for green energy, even signing a bill that was specifically designed to enhance the state’s offshore wind prospects, setting a goal of 1,100 megawatts

As his national profile and ambitions grew, however, Christie increasingly embraced his conservative side, scuttling any chances for meaningful pro-environment policies. As a result, offshore wind has languished, even as other northeast states are getting projects off the ground. Christie has refused to act on a key portion of the 2010 bill establishing the process by which offshore-wind companies would be paid for the energy they provide, which effectively serves as an industry poison pill, making it difficult for the companies that would build the turbines to receive financing for exploration and construction. A proposed project off Atlantic City has already been derailed.

A new administration figures to be more receptive to wind and other renewable energies. That will be welcome news. Optimism prevailed at a recent industry conference in Atlantic City, where advocates supported more than tripling the output goal from the 2010 bill, up to 3,500 megawatts. Two energy companies have acquired leases off the Jersey Shore, and experts still expect turbines to be up and running in our coastal waters by the mid-2020s.

Studies have shown New Jersey’s coast to be particularly conducive to offshore wind because of prevailing gusty conditions, the state’s prime location on the energy grid, and the relatively shallow waters off our coast, which lowers the expense of building offshore turbines. But this isn’t just about the environmental gains. New Jersey has to act fast to maximize its potential advantages because offshore wind offers an entire industry to develop, creating jobs and improving the state economy. That was a major point of emphasis when Christie signed the 2010 bill; he did so in Paulsboro, a South Jersey port town with the facilities to become an industry center.

On energy, President Trump wants to turn back the clock a half century or more, drilling everywhere a drop of oil might be found and expanding use of coal, among ill-advised notions, while ignoring environmental concerns. New Jersey can’t afford to follow that path; our leaders will have to do better than that, looking to the future with a vision that has been too often lacking in the past.