By Michael Catalini, Associated Press
ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey — Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy moved to expand New Jersey's role in the offshore wind sector Wednesday, signing an executive order that supporters say could lead to enough electricity for more than a million homes in about a decade.
Murphy's order calls on the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities to reach a goal of 3,500 MW of offshore wind energy by 2030.
"We begin the process of making New Jersey a leader in offshore wind, a critical step toward achieving our clean energy goals," said Murphy, who has promised to move the state to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. The state gets most of its electricity through natural-gas powered plants and about 40 percent comes from nuclear energy. Renewable sources, like wind, currently about for about 3 percent.
Murphy signed the order at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, in the shadow on onshore wind turbines in the salt marshes of Atlantic City.
The decision comes after Christie embraced offshore wind production, signing a bill in 2010 to set up offshore wind tax credits, but then later failed to green-light projects.
Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, who attended the event, said the Christie administration missed an opportunity to make New Jersey a leader on wind energy.
A proposed project for off the Atlantic City coast from Fishermen's Energy was rejected three times by the Christie administration. That project also lost millions of dollars in federal funding after the Department of Energy said the company failed to meet a deadline.
Environmental groups are praising Murphy's decision, saying it represents a chance to move away from carbon-emitting energy production. Environment New Jersey and the New Jersey Sierra Club estimate that more than a million homes could be powered by wind under Murphy's plan.
"We have incredible potential right off the Jersey Shore — we have been sitting on a clean energy jackpot," said Environment New Jersey Director Doug O'Malley.
A key concern for wind energy projects has been their affordability and whether they will need substantial subsidies. Sweeney said he wasn't sure what the subsidy level under the 2010 legislation Christie signed would be because the state hadn't conducted those estimates under the former governor.