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Today the first offshore wind turbine in the United States has formally began operations off the coast of Rhode Island. Deepwaterís Block Island has become the first commercial offshore wind project in the country. The 30 megawatt wind farm off of Block Island consists of five wind turbines to serve the entire island. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, we were supposed to be first, but six years later, the Christie Administration has not done anything to advance wind energy off our coast. Governor Christie and his administration have failed to fully implement the Offshore Wind Energy Development Act (OWEDA), which was signed in 2010. It was supposed to establish a funding mechanism for offshore wind, to jump start the manufacturing of wind turbines in our state, and to develop windmills off our coast. Since it passed, OWEDA implementation projects like Fishermenís Energy have been on hold because the Christie Administration has blocked the funding.
"New Jersey was supposed the first state in the nation to have offshore wind, but Rhode Island won the race because of the Christie Administration's failed policies. We have the Saudi Arabia of wind off our coast and 1/3 of our electricity needs could be met by wind. Rhode Island didnít beat us to it. Governor Christie made us a loser and blocked our attempts to have offshore wind. Instead of getting the benefits from green jobs and lower electricity bills, out Governor has held wind hostage to serve his political agenda and the Koch Brothers," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "This month marked the sixth anniversary of New Jersey passing legislation to implement offshore wind. Since, the BPU has failed to develop regulations to establish the OREC program and put together the financial support. New Jersey should have built wind turbines off our coast years ago with the Fishermenís Energy project. While Rhode Island is breaking ground and will see the jobs and the economic benefits, New Jersey is being left in the wind."
The Christie Administration has failed to fully implement the OWEDA, to establish a funding mechanism for offshore wind, to jump start the manufacturing of wind turbines in our state, and to develop windmills off our coast. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) even auctioned leases for offshore wind off our coast, but without financing rules the Christie Administration will block these projects from happening.
"While BOEM has leased land off our coast and bidding it to offshore wind companies, nothing is happening because the Christie Administration is blocking it. Six years ago the Governor promised that we would have clean energy from wind, but we havenít moved forward. This has cost New Jersey thousands of jobs and is hurting our economy," said Jeff Tittel. "By the time the financing rules and permits are in place, it may be another 3-4 years after the next Governor before we see offshore wind. Because of the Governorís failed policies, there is a port sitting empty, a factory ready to be built, and companies willing to invest money. New Jersey was supposed to be the first in the nation for offshore wind and now the Governorís damage puts us 10 years behind. Six years after the Governor signed the OWEDA, Christie is still holding offshore wind hostage to his national political ambitions."
There has been a legislative mandate to develop offshore wind farms for six years now, yet the state government has been dragging their feet on getting it done. Now that the federal government is stepping in to make offshore wind a reality in New Jersey, it may not happen because we still need the financing. New Jersey now needs to work on funding mechanisms to make developing in these leases areas a possibility. When the Governor signed OWEDA in 2010, the BPU had until March 2011 to develop regulations to establish the Offshore Renewable Energy Credit (OREC) program, but they are still in the process five years later. Regulations have still not been released even in draft form. The BPU and consultants are still working on a funding mechanism for ORECs to ensure the money they generate is not diverted to the general fund for the state budget. Such precautions are necessary to keep steady funding available for wind projects. There was money available for offshore wind in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), but Governor Christie pulled New Jersey out of the program.
"We have the wind and companies like Fishermanís Energy that are ready to build, but all along the Christie Administration has failed to release the financing rules. The Christie Administration is running out of excuses. They said they didnít need to release the rules until the federal government actioned off the land. Now that BOEM leased the land, where are the rules?" said Jeff Tittel. "With the federal government already leasing areas off our coast for offshore wind, itís no longer a matter of if we will have offshore wind. Now itís only a matter of time. Offshore wind off our coast could feasibly power 1.2 million homes with clean energy. Even though there will be leases off our coast, the wind companies may not be able to build their windmills until New Jersey puts in place their financing mechanism."
Wind energy is renewable, clean, and thousands creates jobs. The East Coast, with its large metropolitan areas and dense suburbs is hungry for jobs, investment and energy. Offshore wind not only creates jobs in installing, operating, and maintaining wind turbines but the OWEDA also calls for investment in manufacturing wind turbines. This would create jobs rebuilding the Paulsboro Port, building factories, manufacturing the steel for the turbines, and assembling and transporting the windmills. Jobs would also be created building the substations and electric connections to serve the windmills. As we continue to rebuild our coast in the wake of multiple storm events we need to invest in clean, renewable energy sources that do not contribute to climate change.
"Leasing offshore wind areas off our coast is a great step forward, but nothing may even begin until we have the next Governor. There are billions of dollars in private investment waiting to come into New Jersey, as well as state tax credits just sitting there, because the Christie Administration has stopped offshore wind. Without issuing the financing, the Christie Administration is hurting our economy and preventing green jobs and clean energy from being a reality," said Jeff Tittel. "Offshore wind would be a great way to jumpstart our coastal economy. With these delays we are losing jobs in the financial sector and venture capitalism for funding and investing in wind."
While New Jersey was posed to be the first state in the nation for offshore wind, the Christie Administration blocked Fishermanís Energy from moving forward five times. If we cannot even get this small project off the ground, how are we going to invest in bigger projects? While New Jersey has fallen behind with offshore wind, Rhode Island has already broken ground.
"New Jersey needs to pursue policies to facilitate the construction of wind turbines off our coast to clean our air and deal with climate change. Instead, our Governor rather side with polluters over our environment and green jobs," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "Without any financing rules, offshore wind is on hold in New Jersey. What is even worse is that companies may end up building off our coast, but send could the electricity to Long Island or Maryland. We could end up getting offshore wind but not getting the benefits. That is why Governor Christie must move forward on the offshore wind rules now; there are no more excuses!"