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[IMGCAP(1)]TRENTON, NJ-It took several months for the state’s Board of Public Utilities to decide which bidder would build the first wind farm off New Jersey’s coast, and one of the first on the East Coast. And BPU stayed at home with its decision, with the five-member board opting unanimously for Garden State Offshore Energy, a joint venture of the Public Enterprise Group Renewable Generation subsidiary of Newark-based PSE&G, the state’s largest utility, and the Hoboken-based Deepwater Wind.

[IMGCAP(2)]GSOE’s application was picked over four others, all submitted earlier this year in response to an RFP in October 2007. The other applications came from Bluewater Wind, Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey, Occidental Development & Equities and Environmental Technologies.

“With this vote, New Jersey maintains its role as a leader in the development of renewable energy,” says NJBPU president Jeanne Fox, in a statement. The GSOE bid was picked because, “it is the one most beneficial to the state,” she says.

“Gov. Corzine’s draft energy master plan, which is being finalized for release later this fall, identifies offshore wind as a significant source of clean energy and a source of the kind of economic stimulus and job growth we need,” Fox says.

Estimated to cost $1 billion, the facility’s 346 MW output would produce enough electricity to power 125,000 homes, officials estimate. The Corzine administration’s overall master plan will call for development of 1,000 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2020, and also for 20% of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by that date.

GSOE’s plans call for 96 wind turbines to be arranged in a half-mile by one-third-mile rectangle between 16 and 20 miles off the coast of South Jersey’s Atlantic and Cape May counties. The distance off-shore is aimed at deflecting criticism by some that the turbines would diminish shoreline views and harm wildlife.

“The beauty of our proposal is that it preserves the beauty of the New Jersey shore,” says Nelson Garcez, VP of PSEG Renewable Generation. “People don’t have to choose between clean energy and a clear view. And this project places New Jersey among the leaders in the US in developing offshore wind energy. It has tremendous potential to create clean energy and hundreds of jobs.”

Those jobs would come from on-shore assembly in South Jersey of foundations, towers and turbines, which would be shipped by barge to the site. Pending approvals from various federal, state and local agencies, financing and further environmental assessment, GSOE hopes to start construction in 2010, begin generating electricity in 2012 and have the facility fully operational by 2013. Financial backers include the Newton, MA-based FirstWind and the New York City-based investment firm D.E. Shaw.

The selection of GSOE brings with it access to up to $19 million in state grants. The funding will start with a $4-million grant from the state, with 10% of that coming upfront to help pay for ongoing studies and the permitting process.

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