The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities announced June 30 it is jointly approving two separate applications for a combined 2,658 megawatts of offshore wind generation off the coast of Atlantic City, in what could be the nation’s largest offshore wind project.
State officials are eyeing the offshore wind and clean energy industry as key economic sectors for the state’s post-COVID economic recovery. Gov. Phil Murphy’s goals call for the availability of 7.5 gigawatts of offshore wind by the year 2035 and total clean energy by 2050.
“We witnessed this week across the country, extreme heat weather patterns,” NJBPU President Joseph Fiordaliso said during the June 30 board meeting. “When it comes to addressing climate change, doing nothing is not an option.”
Clean energy advocates and environmentalists widely back the expansion of offshore wind for these reasons: that it reduces carbon footprint and curtails emissions in a bid to halt climate change while creating an entirely new economic sector.
In 2019, the NJBPU approved Orsted North America’s bid for a 1,100-megawatt offshore wind project, called Ocean Wind, which is slated for completion by early 2025.
As part of its application for “Ocean Wind 2,” the NJBPU approved its bid to develop 1,148 megawatts of energy at a wind turbine site adjacent to the first wind project.
The second project approved on June 30 was for the 1,509.6-megawatt Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, a joint venture between Shell New Energies US LLC and EDF Renewables.
Joris Veldhoven, Atlantic Shores’ commercial and finance director, called the approval a “critical moment to lay the groundwork for workforce training and supply chain development” that would “ensure New Jersey workers and the local economy reap tremendous benefits.”
“This award is a win for workers across New Jersey who will be poised to lead in our state’s offshore wind and the burgeoning green economy as a result of Atlantic Shores’ commitment to job training,” said Greg Lalevee, business manager at International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825.
Both would be roughly a dozen miles off the coast of Atlantic City, according to the NJBPU, and in terms of scale rivals the 2,400-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Virginia. In May, the Biden administration gave the green light for a 2,500-megawatt project off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
“With the selection of Ocean Wind 2, New Jersey is now firmly at the heart of the American offshore wind industry,” reads a statement from Ørsted Offshore North America CEO David Hardy.
The project would utilize manufacturing and shipping facilities in South Jersey: The 200-acre “wind port” in Salem County, from which the state would ship out wind turbine components to the rest of the country; and the $250 million manufacturing facility for the wind turbines, based in Camden County along the Delaware River.
“New Jersey has been sitting on a gold mine of offshore wind that has been untapped off the Shore,” reads a statement from Doug O’Malley, who heads Environment New Jersey. “Offshore wind is our best bet to power our state’s economy with clean energy and reduce our climate and air pollution from our power sector.”
The state agency estimated that the completed project would power 1.15 million homes, on top of the 500,000 homes that could be powered under the existing Ocean Wind project.
We want to build a whole new industry and the jobs and economic opportunity that comes with it.
– NJBPU Commissioner Bob Gordon
Construction, development and operation of the new offshore wind site could employ 7,000 area residents in the near future and entail $3.5 billion of local spending, according to an NJBPU statement.
Approval of both projects, suggested NJBPU staffer Jim Ferris, could wield greater environmental and economic benefits “than any single award.”
“The Murphy administration wants New Jersey to be the hub of the offshore,” NJBPU Commissioner Bob Gordon said during the meeting. “We want to build a whole new industry and the jobs and economic opportunity that comes with it.”
All five commissioners voted in favor of both projects, but Board Commissioner Dianne Solomon said neither applicant properly addressed the potential added costs on electricity bills for years to come.
“Wind energy is expensive,” she said. “It is our hope this larger solicitation would result in a lower… price. That was not so… New Jersey cannot afford to further decrease its tax and ratepayer base by being a cost-prohibitive place to live and do business.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 8:04 a.m. EST on July 1, 2021, to include remarks from Orsted North America.m