Support for Offshore Wind in New Jersey Drops, Industry Points to Effect of Misinformation
The number of New Jersey residents who support offshore wind fell by more than 20 per cent since 2019, from 76 per cent four years ago to just over half (54 per cent) now, and the number of those opposing offshore wind has climbed from 15 per cent to 40 per cent since 2019.
This is according to the results of a poll performed earlier this month by the Monmouth University Polling Institute, which found that 40 per cent of New Jerseyans think offshore wind farms could hurt the state’s summer tourism economy and 45 per cent see a connection between wind energy development and the recent beached whale phenomenon in New Jersey.
Furthermore, only 22 per cent expect the offshore wind industry to create a lot of jobs for the state, with most (55 per cent) saying that a few new jobs would be created and 15 per cent expecting that the industry would not create any new jobs.
The drop in overall support to 64 per cent is even bigger when looking beyond the 76 per cent in 2019 as around 80 per cent of those living in New Jersey said they were in favour of offshore wind in polls taken from 2008 to 2011.
According to Monmouth University, the decline in wind energy support has been largely partisan, with Republican backing plunging from 69 per cent to only 28 per cent since 2019 and support among independents dropping from 77 per cent to 52 per cent. Meanwhile, the change in Democratic support is minor as it now stands at 76 per cent, only 3 per cent lower than in 2019.
The university, which found that opinion on the beached whale phenomenon had a high correlation with support for wind energy, also found that 63 per cent of those surveyed who believe that wind energy development is definitely or probably playing a role in the recent whale beachings are Republicans, while only 26 per cent Democrats expressed the same opinion.
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said: “There was a time when wind energy was not really a political issue. It consistently received widespread bipartisan support for more than a decade. That is no longer the case”.
The industry has also responded to the poll results, primarily addressing the figures that correlate the level of support and the opinion on the whale beaching phenomenon.
Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, a 50:50 joint venture between Shell and EDF Renewables, released a statement saying the poll showed “the harmful effect of misinformation” and highlighted the need for education and the sharing of information.
“We must not lose sight of the fact that clean energy is urgently needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wind energy is an integral part of the state’s plan, and it needs to be built. Its environmental, job, and economic benefits are real”, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind said.
“Being able to bring a new offshore wind industry to this state and the country is exciting – but it doesn’t come without challenges and the need to educate and engage in information sharing. We have a role to play in helping people understand offshore wind and ensuring that they have accurate information. We embrace this role and will continue to openly communicate with New Jerseyans who want to know more”.
The developer emphasised that offshore wind would bring new facilities, supply chain businesses, and jobs to the state and said that its offshore wind project alone will generate USD 1.9 billion in economic activity, create 18,000 jobs and power more than 700,000 homes.
“The spreading of misinformation and lies is dangerous and doesn’t serve the people of this state who so urgently need the benefits that offshore wind will bring. It must stop”, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind said in the statement.
The Shell-EDF Renewables joint venture holds lease rights for three offshore wind areas in the US, which are under active development. Two of the areas are located some 16 to 32 kilometres off the coast of New Jersey, between Atlantic City and Barnegat Light, and one in the New York Bight.
Offshore New Jersey, the joint venture is developing the 1,510 MW Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Project 1 and the 1,327 MW Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind Project 2, which are currently in the federal permitting process. For its 1,510 MW project, Atlantic Shores already has an Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Certificate (OREC) after the project was selected by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in June 2021.
American Clean Power Association (ACP) has also commented on the results and pointed to the support for offshore wind still coming from the majority of New Jersey residents.
Moira Cyphers, Director of Eastern State Affairs at ACP, said: “After being subjected to a nearly year-long, well-funded and coordinated disinformation campaign that has attempted to threaten the economic and energy future of the Garden State, the majority of New Jersey residents support offshore wind development because the economic, environmental, and energy reliability benefits are substantial”.
“Offshore wind means thousands of jobs and good wages in the pockets of hard-working New Jersey families while developing projects that will deliver clean power and cleaner air to shore towns on the front lines of increasingly powerful storms, flooding, and beach erosion. We appreciate Governor Murphy’s continued commitment to offshore wind development as the industry works alongside New Jersey’s skilled workforce and communities eager to develop offshore wind for the future benefit of the Garden State”.
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