Thursday, July 1, 2010

Legislation puffs up NJ’s offshore wind prospects

Offshore wind farm

Governor Chris Christie is expected soon to sign into law a bill written to boost New Jersey’s chances of developing  the nation’s first offshore wind energy farms.

The Garden State is competing with Delaware, Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts to become the first to break waves on a sizable offshore wind energy facility.  And the race to be the Number One is not just for bragging rights.

The real prize is the ability to attract the financial investment to support not only the at-sea installation of  wind turbines but also the on-land plants to manufacture turbine blades and other equipment essential for such projects.

Also standing to benefit are port facilities with the berths and loading facilities for ships ferrying equipment and workers to and from the ocean construction sites.

New Jersey not only has plenty of old manufacturing and port properties but it also has four serious developers vying for the chance to build one.    

The legislation, (S-2036), establishes a program of Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates (ORECs) that wind energy developers say are necessary to attract financial investors to the expensive projects.

The ORECs would be purchased by utilities who are required by state law to supply a certain percentage of their electricity from alternative energy sources like wind and solar.  The bill anticipates that at least 1,100 megawatts of that electricity would be generated by qualified offshore wind projects.

The legislation allows developers to earn the credits for each megawatt of electricity the turbines produce over 20 years.

It also authorizes the state’s Economic Development Authority to provide up to $100 million in tax credits to wind energy support businesses, like wind turbine manufacturers, that set up shop in New Jersey.

Estimates of the cost for a New Jersey offshore wind farm range from $7 billion to as high as $20 billion.

It’s the size and unpredictability of project costs that had some business lobbyists asking questions as the bill sped through both houses of the state Legislature.  The state’s heavy energy users already pay the highest energy bills in the nation.

But advocates like Matt Elliott, a clean-energy advocate for Environment New Jersey, predict that renewable energy will  become more competitive with fossil fuels over time.

“There is a myth that fossil fuels are cheap. The only reason they cost less is that we subsidized them for decades and we don’t consider any of the environmental or public-health costs they create,” he said.

Offshore Wind Bill Sails Through the Legislature
Bill would require utilities to purchase a portion of their energy from offshore wind farms

New Jersey paving path for offshore wind 
Offshore Wind Energy Gets Double-Barreled Boost

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