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Sweeney/Kean Bill To Spur Offshore Wind Energy Released By Senate Committee

TRENTON – Bipartisan legislation Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Senate Republican Leader Thomas H. Kean, Jr., sponsored to promote the development of offshore wind technology was released today by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

The “Offshore Wind Economic Development Act,” (S-2036) would create through the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) an offshore wind renewable energy certificate (OREC) program to require that a percentage of electricity sold in the State be from offshore wind energy – similar to the credits already provided for solar energy. The credits would help push the state to creating 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind energy.

The expansion of offshore wind energy can help stabilize electric rates and reduce fossil fuel reliance.

“The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has opened our eyes to the need for clean, sustainable energy that we can produce here at home,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “New Jersey already is a national leader in solar energy production, but we have yet to truly tap into the potential of our offshore winds. Not only can we begin to make New Jersey even more energy independent, we can also become a leader in wind technology and bring vital new jobs to the state.”

The Sweeney/Kean measure would give the BPU specific authority to accept applications for qualified offshore wind projects with the goal of helping the state meet the mandate of the Energy Master Plan that calls for the development of 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2020 – a target that will require a comprehensive offshore wind program.

“Green technology, including windmills, is an important part of the future of energy development,” Kean (R-Union/Morris/Somerset/Union) stated. “It protects the environment, saves money and reduces our reliance on foreign oil. This legislation exemplifies New Jersey’s commitment to being at the forefront of this movement so that we can be the place for development, growth and job creation in this growing industry.”

Much like the solar renewable energy credit certificate program (SREC), the proposed OREC system would allow wind energy producers to receive credits that can produce revenues and be used to offset production costs and stabilize energy rates.

The lawmakers also said the program would facilitate the establishment of in-state manufacturing businesses to build turbines, rotors and other parts needed to harness offshore wind. Currently, no United States-based facility exists that produces the parts needed for offshore wind projects.

Adding to the urgency is the fact that New Jersey is one of several states along the Eastern Seaboard planning offshore wind projects. Working swiftly to create a New Jersey-based manufacturing sector could mean other states’ projects would have to place their orders with businesses based in-state, creating a long-term market that could support hundreds of high paying permanent manufacturing jobs.

The measure has earned support from the wind energy industry.

“We commend Senate President Sweeney and Senator Kean for their leadership on advancing the State’s goal to bring renewable energy to New Jersey and to lay the groundwork of attracting a meaningful manufacturing base for offshore wind in New Jersey,” said Scott Jennings, president of PSEG Global and a member of the Board of Directors of Garden State Offshore Energy. “We look forward to working with the bill’s sponsors to develop a proposal that balances the interests of all stakeholders.”

“New Jersey is in a race, a race not necessarily only for the first offshore wind farm, but also for the green jobs and shoreside investment associated with this new industry,” said Daniel Cohen, co-founder and President of Fishermen’s Energy of NJ, which is developing both a 350MW wind farm 10 to 12 miles from Atlantic City and a 20MW demonstration project 2.8 miles from the resort. “Without this legislation, New Jersey will have lost the race to attract this new industry, without having entered the race.”

“Senate President Sweeney and Senator Kean are to be commended for their leadership towards a major competitive offshore wind industry for New Jersey, which will create jobs for the state, help stabilize energy prices, and significantly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Erich Stephens, vice-president of Princeton-based OffshoreMW.

The bill was released 4-0 with one abstention and now proceeds to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further considerations.

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