Natural gas heats more than 70% of New Jersey homes but efforts are being ramped up to convert the Garden State to a clean energy infrastructure that will put a heavy emphasis on wind power.

The Board of Public Utilities is reviewing bids to build the first phase of a massive offshore wind farm that will generate 1,100 megawatts of electric power within six years.

“In total, 1,100 megawatts will power approximately 500,000 homes,” said Joe Fiordaliso, the president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

He said the cost of electricity will rise initally, but “eventually that’s going to come down, and we just have to be patient enough and look at the economic development benefits.”

Fiordaliso said wind energy will create a supply-chain industry that will generate thousands of new jobs for Garden State workers.

Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, agrees that developing a wind industry with turbines out in the ocean will not only boost the state economy, it will also help ratepayers.

“Once you build them, the cost of operation and maintenance is so cheap that eventually your costs go down and your rates come down," he said.

He said the plan to build the wind turbines 15 miles out to sea is a good one.

“There’s fewer critters, birds out there. Its outside of the flyway. Bats only go within 2 miles of the shore," he said.

At the same time, “when you’re 15 miles off the coast you won’t see it from the shore because of the haze from the ocean.”

Fiordaliso said New Jersey is planning to develop its wind farms out in the ocean because “that’s where our wind is, unlike a place like Iowa.”

“Off our coast, there’s plenty of wind, it never stops, and to my knowledge it doesn’t cause cancer," he said, a reference to President Donald Trump's false claim recently that the "noise" from what he called "windmills" causes cancer.

Once the BPU selects a company in June, construction will begin a short time later.

Even though the wind turbines will be placed 15 miles out to sea, the water won’t be a deep as you might imagine, because the continental shelf extends as far out as 75 miles off the Jersey coast.

Two additional phases of the wind farm are also planned in 2020 and 2022 with a goal of generating 3,500 megawatts of wind power for the Garden State by 2030.

A Danish company, Orsted, along with EDF-Shell and Norway-based Equinor have put in bids for the first phase of the wind farm project.

Gov. Phil Murphy has vowed to convert New Jersey to 100% clean energy by 2050

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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