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Blown away by lack of support for wind energy jobs

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When you're talking about pipe dreams that are as literal as they are figurative, wind energy is as good a symbol as any.

In 2010, the industry seemed poised for takeoff. Chris Christie had just signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, which charged the Board of Public Utilities with developing the kind of offshore wind incentives to make the state a hotbed for the industry, as it was in solar through the solar renewable energy certificate program. A lot of observers were hopeful this could be a new growth area for the state, with a manufacturing base to produce windmills and high-tech parts and skilled technicians to service them.

Then, the industry just sailed into the doldrums, where it remains today. In the meantime, some states, like Maryland, have created wind incentives of their own, while others, like Texas, have had private enterprises like T. Boone Pickens' push for wind energy development.

There's value to being first, especially when we're talking about potential manufacturing jobs. The Atlantic Wind Connection transmission line — the first piece of which could be in New Jersey — could bring thousands of jobs to the Garden State, according to the company. But that line won't be built unless it gets support from somewhere, be it lawmakers or regulators, and the political climate doesn't seem ripe for something like this. You'd expect, for instance, Christie to go after something that has the promise of bringing jobs and economic investment to the state, but wind turbines could look like an obstacle to securing the Republican ticket in 2016, especially to a guy who was snubbed from CPAC. Steve Sweeney has been a champion of wind power, but you'd expect that from someone who would likely see plenty of jobs in the event something like the transmission project gets built; maybe that's keeping legislators elsewhere from getting on board.

New Jersey has a chance to be early to the party here. It would be a big mistake to let another opportunity slip away.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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