The coastal breezes are just as strong in both states, yet today an island off Rhode Island is harnessing wind power to generate clean electricity while New Jersey has only generated hot air.
In 2010, New Jersey was poised to be the first state to tap the immense potential of offshore wind energy. Seven years ago this month, the governor signed a measure creating the tax credits and financial assistance for offshore wind that would be essential to getting the new technology off the ground.
The new law directed the state Board of Public Utilities to develop a program that would require about 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind capacity. It compelled BPU to create a credit system to stimulate interest from developers — just as New Jersey had accomplished with solar power.
Unfortunately, the Christie administration has failed to deliver on New Jersey’s promise of offshore wind. The BPU has not developed the all-important credit system. Today, Massachusetts, New York and Maryland are closer than New Jersey to getting power from wind.
Why wind? The arguments are as strong as the Atlantic gusts that could be powering New Jersey homes and businesses. Wind is clean energy — an advantage over the fossil fuels that cause climate change, harm health and risk public safety. And the Business Network for Offshore Wind calls it “the only renewable energy resource that can be deployed at an electric output scale comparable to nuclear generation.”
While consumers will pay a bit more initially, offshore wind costs will become comparable to other power sources. And when the health benefits of cleaner air are factored in, wind easily beats fossil fuels.
A study of offshore wind’s potential in Massachusetts explains that initial costs will decline because, as with so many other things, prices go down as demand and scale increase and technology improves. Just think about what that computer you bought 10 years ago cost, compared to today.
That Massachusetts study predicted costs would drop continuously during 10 years of buildout starting in 2020. When states commit to offshore wind, business risks plummet. Costs also decline dramatically as the workforce grows experienced and the supply chain becomes more efficient.
Europe shows us what lies ahead for the U.S. offshore wind industry. There, the price of building an offshore wind farm dropped dramatically — 46 percent — in the past five years.
Wind also means the development of an entire industry, along with good jobs and tax revenues.
Maryland recently awarded contracts to two offshore wind developers for 368 megawatts of capacity, to be available starting in 2021. That state expects to create around 9,700 new direct and indirect jobs and $74 million in state tax revenues over 20 years.
Public opinion certainly isn’t a barrier. Three-quarters of New Jersey voters favor offshore wind, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll last fall.
Back in 2010, while announcing the new policy that would never be carried out, Gov. Christie proclaimed that “developing New Jersey’s renewable energy resources and industry is critical to our state’s manufacturing and technology future.”
The statement is as true now as it was then. Let’s make up for lost time and take the steps necessary to make New Jersey a leader on offshore wind.
Tom Gilbert is campaign director of ReThink Energy NJ and New Jersey Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Far Hills.