Despite the controversies around its benefits and drawbacks, offshore wind is seen by one coastal state as a viable source of renewable power. The state, New Jersey, is willing to make a sizable investment of public resources to tap into its full potential.

While the benefits of offshore wind have been touted for many years, it has faced numerous obstacles in that time that have prevented a fledgling industry from gaining any kind of positive momentum. The unique mix of pros and cons have created a quandary for the industry unlike any other faced by green-power sources.

On one hand, offshore wind is seen by many as a classic form of renewable power: a free and nonpolluting infinite source of energy, largely untapped along thousands of miles of coastline. On the other hand, environmentalists and coastal residents passionately protest the threats it poses to migratory birds and scenic ocean views.

While protests over offshore wind may persist indefinitely, proponents seem to be prevailing. Perhaps it is the tipping point of the green power revolution; its momentum is overwhelming. Witness the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts, which is advancing finally through regulatory approvals after years of protests and delays.

To the south, New Jersey has also embraced offshore wind power and has given it a significant role in the state’s renewable portfolio. In August, Gov. Chris Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act. It directs the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to develop an offshore renewable-energy certificate program (CREC) that calls for a fixed percentage of the electricity sold in the state to be from offshore-wind energy. That percentage, according to the governor’s announcement, will support the development of at least 1,100 megawatts of generation from offshore-wind projects.

But forced compliance is only part of the equation. Recognizing the need for carrots as well as sticks, the state has made a monetary investment to support its commitment. Legislation directs the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) to provide financial assistance and tax credits to offshore-wind project developers, equipment manufacturers and assembling facilities.

The state’s policy comes on the heels of another announcement this summer designed to give offshore wind a boost, not just in New Jersey, but in several neighboring states. In June, governors from 10 East Coast states created the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium. The memorandum of understanding was signed by the governors to facilitate federal/state cooperation for commercial wind development on the outer continental shelf off the Atlantic coast.