Offshore wind sector creates ‘generational opportunity for South Jersey’

Matthew Fazelpoor//August 15, 2022//

Offshore wind sector creates ‘generational opportunity for South Jersey’

Matthew Fazelpoor//August 15, 2022//

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Offshore wind
“There’s nothing quite like the opportunity presented to New Jersey by offshore wind,” Tim Sullivan, NJEDA chief executive officer, told NJBIZ. “You don’t often have industries or sectors that you’re talking about adding tens of thousands of new jobs to the economy.” – DEPOSIT PHOTOS


The state’s offshore wind industry is on the fast track, including with New Jersey’s first such effort, Ocean Wind 1, which Ørsted and PSEG teamed up to build. The 1,100-megawatt project is expected to power some 500,000 New Jersey homes when it is completed sometime in 2024. In June, it reached a critical milestone as the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the project. And while Ocean Wind 1 progresses – and remains central to the state’s offshore wind efforts – another project in South Jersey that is also an integral piece of the puzzle is gaining steam.

Last September, officials broke ground on the New Jersey Wind Port, a first-in-the-nation infrastructure hub for essential staging, assembly and manufacturing activities related to offshore projects—not just in New Jersey, but along the whole East Coast. Located on the Delaware River in Lower Alloways Creek, Salem County, the Wind Port is being developed by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to spur job creation and opportunities for businesses throughout the offshore wind supply chain.

“I’ve been doing economic development a long time,” Tim Sullivan, NJEDA chief executive officer, told NJBIZ. “There’s nothing quite like the opportunity presented to New Jersey by offshore wind. You don’t often have industries or sectors that you’re talking about adding tens of thousands of new jobs to the economy.”

Gov. Phil Phil Murphy, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, President of the New Jersey State Building & Construction Trades Council Bill Mullen, AECOM Tishman Community Relations Director Flora Ramos, elected officials, union leaders, environmental advocates, private sector partners and representatives of the offshore wind industry participate in a groundbreaking for the New Jersey Wind Port on Sept. 9, 2021
U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh joined Gov. Phil Murphy for the Wind Port groundbreaking in 2021. Creating and building the offshore wind industry in the state is central
to Murphy’s energy agenda. – EDWIN J. TORRES/NJ GOVERNOR’S OFFICE

The work is central to Gov. Phil Murphy’s energy agenda. “The multifaceted impact of Ocean Wind 1 cannot be overstated; in addition to spurring economic growth and generating new jobs, the project will help us accomplish significant GHG [greenhouse gas] reductions, upon which the future of our state depends,” the governor said earlier this year.

“Ocean Wind 1 recognizes and understands the importance of developing and delivering New Jersey’s first offshore wind farm in a responsible way with a keen eye toward avoiding and minimizing any environmental impacts,” said Maddy Urbish, Ørsted’s head of government affairs & policy for N.J.

Last month, the NJEDA board approved the purchase of a 109.4-acre parcel to expand the Wind Port. The expansion will enable the marshalling of two wind projects concurrently as well as up to three co-located manufacturing facilities.

“We think the Wind Port is going to be an infrastructure asset that serves not just New Jersey projects, but the entire East Coast wind patch,” Sullivan explained. “We’re talking about thousands of jobs potentially at the Wind Port.”

He also noted that the equipment involved in the offshore wind process is heavy, so the less it must be moved, the better. That scenario opens the door for the area to capitalize.

“The supply chain opportunities and manufacturing opportunities are huge,” said Sullivan. “A couple thousand jobs potentially in Salem County. That’s a huge impact on a part of the state that could really use a boost.”

The location, in the middle of many offshore wind projects, and the geography – which offers ocean access free of vertical restrictions, a wide approach channel from the Delaware River, as well as lots of open space – make the area uniquely equipped for the project.

“This is a generational opportunity for South Jersey,” said Sullivan. “Offshore wind has the potential; we think a decent likelihood to make South Jersey the capital of American offshore wind.”

Opportunity awaits

Sullivan said the Wind Port will, in many ways, be the foundation of offshore wind efforts and serve as the location where Ocean Wind 1 will be marshaled from. The NJEDA and Ørsted signed a letter of intent along those lines earlier this year.

“The Wind Port is arguably the most important clean energy infrastructure project in America right now,” said Sullivan. “At least on the land side.”

Project Labor Agreement binder
New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan pointed out the opportunity that creating a new industry offers in terms of building a diverse workforce. – EDWIN J. TORRES/NJ GOVERNOR’S OFFICE

And with that kind of project comes the opportunity to build and develop a workforce in the surrounding communities. Sullivan cited partnerships with Gloucester County Institute of Technology and Salem County Vocational Technical School to train young people for opportunities within this blossoming industry.

“This is a career pipeline,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st District, has been involved in numerous efforts involving offshore wind and workforce development, especially in South Jersey. “I’m committed to expanding opportunities for middle-class families, and one great way we’re doing that in South Jersey is by growing the offshore wind industry,” Norcross told NJBIZ in a statement. “I secured $500,000 for a wind energy jobs training at Rowan University to bolster the talent pipeline and prepare the local workforce for these new opportunities. Establishing South Jersey as a hub for the offshore wind industry is a win-win for workers, the local economy, energy affordability, air quality and our national security.”

Sullivan also pointed out the opportunity that creating a new industry offers in terms of building a diverse workforce. “So that we have an industry that looks like New Jersey,” he said. “There’s a huge opportunity to get this right. It’s a brand-new industry being born, in this century, in this decade. Shame on us if we don’t work like hell to get it right from a diversity inclusion perspective.”

And that directive comes from the governor, who is betting big on offshore wind as a new economic driver, as well as a legacy item.

Sullivan believes that the commitment to the sector from the governor, in the form of money and action, has created confidence in the industry that New Jersey is an attractive place to do business. He thinks sometimes there is a perception that this is merely a politically or government-driven initiative. But he believes the buy-in from the private sector proves its legitimacy.

“The private sector is poised to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in offshore wind,” said Sullivan. “And there’s no amount of political coaxing or government initiative that can make people invest that kind of money. It’s because there’s a there there.”

Despite the momentum and positive developments, Sullivan does caution that challenges remain and there likely will be some bumps in the road. “That’s how any new industry of this size is going to develop,” said Sullivan. “There’ll be potholes along the way, for sure. And we’ll see some setbacks. But I think the progress and the momentum here is incredible.”

In June, Murphy joined President Joe Biden, governors from several East Coast states, and other officials and leaders, to launch a new Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership.

“As we build upon ongoing collaborations and forge new partnerships, it’s clear that we are united with our neighbors not just by geography, but by a shared commitment to clean and affordable energy, economic opportunity, and a future in which all community members are shielded from the worsening impacts of climate change,” Murphy said. “Our status as a critical supply chain hub and home of the first purpose-built offshore wind marshalling port in the U.S. uniquely positions us to cultivate the burgeoning domestic clean energy industry as we strive to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction goals, upon which the future of our state – and our region – depends.”

“The future of a really important sector is being decided right now,” Sullivan said. “New Jersey and Gov. Murphy and our team are right in the middle of those important decisions. And how that plays out in the next couple of years matters for the next couple of decades. So that’s exciting and somewhat intimidating.”