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N.J. vows to 'race to the sea' for wind power

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Governor leads cause; $1 billion offshore plan may power 125,000 homes

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - New Jersey is powering up an ambitious plan to become a world leader in the use of wind-generated energy.Gov. Jon Corzine wants the Garden State to triple the amount of wind power it plans to use by 2020 to 3,000 megawatts. That would be 13 percent of New Jersey's total energy, enough to power between 800,000 to just under 1 million homes.

"We want to create this generation's race to the moon, but this time, a race to the sea, to harness this potential wind source off of our coasts, and bring economic development, environmental benefits, and new, green jobs to the Garden State," Corzine said Monday.

Environmentalists hailed the plan. Dena Mottola Jaborska, executive director of Environment New Jersey, termed it "a gale force for change, moving us away from dirty power and towards a new energy future. It is the most visionary plan to promote offshore wind energy in the nation."

Last week, Garden State Offshore Energy, a joint venture of PSE&G Renewable Generation and Deepwater Wind, was chosen to build a $1 billion, 345 megawatt wind farm in the ocean about 16-20 miles off the coast of Atlantic City. That plant would be able to power about 125,000 homes.

There are currently no offshore wind power projects anywhere in the United States, but two others have been approved for areas off Rhode Island and Delaware, environmentalists said.

In Atlantic City, the local utilities authority has a wind farm consisting of five windmills that generate 7.5 megawatts, enough energy to power approximately 2,500 homes. It powers a wastewater treatment plant, with surplus energy going to the area power grid.

The state Commerce Commission assessed the potential costs and benefits of offshore wind on New Jersey's economy. It concluded that while there would be some negative impacts on tourism, these would be temporary and would decline quickly.

"This is a historic day for New Jersey," said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. "Global warming is the single most serious threat to the planet, and offshore wind energy is the most cost-effective form or renewable alternative energy."

Corzine said the project could create as many as 500 new jobs, with twice that amount during construction and installation of the giant turbines. The state Board of Public Utilities has set aside $19 million for wind farm grants.

Garden State Offshore Energy was one of five firms competing to do the latest project. But Corzine wants the others to also work with the state on their own proposals.

One of them, Bluewater Wind, plans to build a similar project about 13 miles off the coast of Rehoboth Beach, Del., said Jim Lanard, the company's director of strategic planning. He said Bluewater is interested in working with New Jersey on another wind energy project.

He also said swimmers and sunbathers would hardly be able to see the giant turbines from the beach. "These things will appear to be half the size of your thumbnail and as thin as a toothpick," he said.


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