Thursday, August 17, 2017

Offshore energy waiting on gentler political winds in NJ

The state’s industry sector needs to be brought back to life, and that will take a new administration — for starters

offshore wind

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight: 
It has been nearly seven years since a measure to promote offshore wind in New Jersey was signed into law, and not a single turbine is turning off the state’s coast.
But clean-energy advocates and some business executives remain upbeat about prospects for the sector in the state, saying there is still an opportunity for New Jersey to nurture an offshore wind industry and create tens of thousands of jobs.
At a conference in Atlantic City, the Business Network for Offshore Wind outlined steps to resuscitate the state’s offshore wind program, including increasing the commitment to build at least 3,500 megawatts of capacity, up from the existing target of 1,100 megawatts.
That would be an ambitious goal — given the repeated missteps and delays the industry has encountered in New Jersey. Although a law designed to spur offshore wind farms along the coast was passed in 2010, not a single project has won state approval.

Christie cools on wind

Gov. Chris Christie signed the law, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, but the governor has since cooled on the technology, fearful the cost of developing the wind farms would spike energy costs in the state.
Also, his administration never bothered to implement a key provision of the law — developing a financial mechanism to provide ratepayer subsidies to help pay for the projects. Without such a mechanism, offshore wind developers say they will be unable to obtain Wall Street financing.
Nevertheless, two developers, DONG Energy and U.S. Wind Inc., have paid nearly $2 million to secure leases to build wind turbines off the coast, but their projects are still in the early stages, assessing the suitability of the sites to build the farms. By most estimates, no turbines will be operational until the middle of the next decade.

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