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N.J. rejection of offshore windmills puts state at disadvantage, environmentalists say

 The first German windmill offshore  power plant in the North Sea is seen in 2010. New Jersey utilities have capitalized on cheap natural gas to lower the state's energy costs, but critics say it has fallen behind in offshore wind. (Frank Augstein/AP Photo)

The first German windmill offshore power plant in the North Sea is seen in 2010. New Jersey utilities have capitalized on cheap natural gas to lower the state's energy costs, but critics say it has fallen behind in offshore wind. (Frank Augstein/AP Photo)

Environmentalists are concerned about the future of offshore wind projects in New Jersey after the state Board of Public Utilities voted this week to reject a $188 million pilot project three miles off the Atlantic City coast.

While the Fishermens’ Energy project would have had only five turbines, New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said deciding against it is a setback for the development of offshore wind power.

“I think it slows it down for a longer period, and that’s a concern,” he said. “Originally, we thought New Jersey would be the first state with wind off our coast, and it looks like we’re going to get beaten out by Maryland, Delaware, and Massachusetts. But more importantly, it’s thousands of jobs and it’s electricity that can be produced without pollution.”

Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in 2010 calling for the development of offshore wind projects; so far, no project has been approved.

Environment New Jersey director Doug O’Malley questions whether the state will be able to meet its Energy Master Plan goal of having 3,000 megawatts of off shore wind power by the year 2020.

The BPU rejected the plan because members decided it was financially risky.

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