A majority of residents statewide support offshore wind development and believe it will benefit New Jersey’s economy, according to a new poll the by Monmouth University Polling Institute.
The poll results were revealed Monday during a conference-call New Jersey Sierra Club held to support the windfarm project, which has been halted.
The proposal for a 25-megawatt windfarm project by Cape May-based Fishermen’s Energy LLC was not approved by the state’s Board of Public Utilities in July. The board cited unmet requirements of the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, which was signed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2010. The energy produced from the five windmills about 2.8 miles off Atlantic City could power 10,000 homes.
Hearings planned for the end of August were canceled, and no new dates have been scheduled, BPU spokesman Earl Pierce said.
Daniel Cohen, president of Fishermen’s Energy, said they had expected the procedural hearings to take place in July, but the BPU has postponed them until the end of October.
Cohen said the company has complied with all the requirements set by BPU and is running out of time to proceed with the project as it has been proposed. The federal grants that were obtained will expire if the company does not start construction on the wind farm by the end of 2013, Cohen said.
The poll showed that 75 percent of 783 registered voters support building electricity-generating windmills off the Jersey shore; 46 percent strongly support the development.
At least 66 percent of those polled between Sept. 6 and 10 believe the offshore windmills could benefit New Jersey’s economy.
Michele Cooklin, of Galloway Township, participated in the conference-call to share her experiences approaching boardwalk businesses on the subject.
“Most knew about wind energy and didn’t understand why it hadn’t happened yet,” said Cooklin, an activist with the club and local teacher. “No one was worried that it was going to detract from the beauty of the coastal area. I was surprised everyone I spoke with was supportive.”
Cooklin said she spent time along the Ocean City Boardwalk and is making her way through Cape May County as part of the club’s outreach program. Volunteers have visited Ocean City and Cape May passing out window decals, garnering support and gauging the reactions and knowledge of businesses about the windfarm project.
The organizing representative of the outreach program, Christine Guhl, said volunteers have also visited businesses in Freehold, Point Pleasant, Seaside, Asbury Park, Ringwood, Metuchen, Somerville and Montclair.
“These results confirm what we have seen in prior Monmouth polls. There is widespread public support for developing wind energy resources off New Jersey’s coast,” said Patrick Murray, director of the polling institute.
The last time people heard about the plans in New Jersey was when Christie signed the economic development act, Cooklin said. Since then, many believe the project was under way.
Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club, said the development of the new energy source could benefit all residents regardless of party lines and he is urging Christie to “finish the job.”
“We are falling behind when we had the opportunity to be a leader (in the country),” Cooklin said.
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