TRENTON - Wind Power for a Cleaner America says New Jersey has the best potential on the east coast to capture the alternative energy source. Lawmakers in Trenton say the state is poised to reap all the benefits of the program, but they're frustrated with what they call unnecessary delays that could be costly.
The wind speed, especially 5 miles off Atlantic City, is especially strong. In fact, officials describe it as a sweet spot, in the state that was named in a new report as having the most potential along the East Coast for off-shore wind alternative energy.
New Jersey could reduce its global warming emissions by over 825,000 metric tons by year 2018, said Doug OMalley, with Environment New Jersey, which is equivalent to the carbon pollution of over 171,000 passenger vehicles.
We're ready for the windmills in Atlantic City, said Senator Jim Whelan, we want the windmills in Atlantic City. While state lawmakers say New Jersey is ready and waiting for off-shore wind projects to get underway, there's been little movement since the Off-Shore Wind Economic Development Act was signed by the governor in 2010. The rest of the world has figured this out, Whelan, they figured this out and they have off-shore wind in Europe, China, we are behind and we, in New Jersey, had the chance to get out in front, be the hub.
Besides the environmental benefits, officials say these projects are a huge economic win. Thousands of potential jobs could be created in South Jersey, not just installing the turbines, but also manufacturing them. These jobs were ours, said Senate President Stephen Sweeney, locked up back when we passed this bill, no one was close to us. Now we've opened the door for other states to take it and that's really troubling.
Officials point the finger at the Board of Public Utilities, which they say has caused unnecessary delays without any explanation - including not acting on a plan by a local group to put turbines off of Atlantic City. It's fully permitted, said Paul Gallagher with Fishermens Energy, the group looking to bring a 25-megawatt project three miles off the coast, the last thing we need is an approval of our proposal by the BPU.
Either they do the job or get out of the way, said Sweeney, at this point, they can't continue to hold back opportunities. Opportunities these lawmakers say are quickly going to vanish if something isn't done soon.
A spokesperson for the BPU wouldn't comment on the news conference, but instead forwarded a five-page letter regarding Fishermen's Energy's proposed project. That letter, which he also would not comment on, points out concerns between the electric distribution companies and the New Jersey Rate Council - although state lawmakers say the council has granted its support to the project.
Oral arguments in front of the BPU are expected on the matter on December 20th.