Plans Underway for Building Massive Offshore Wind Farms Along Jersey Coast

NJ Spotlight- The state’s utilities board drafts guidance possibly doubling the amount of capacity, ready to start seeking developers for giant project

The Murphy administration is ramping up the state’s efforts to build offshore wind farms by possibly doubling the amount of capacity it wants developers to build off the Jersey coast.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities recently issued draft guidance for a formal solicitation seeking developer interest in a project which the administration originally had targeted for up to 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind capacity, but now could involve up to 2,400 MW of new wind farms.

Offshore wind is one of the most important components of Gov. Phil Murphy’s ambitious clean-energy goals that aim to transform New Jersey into being 100% reliant on cleaner fuels to power its transportation sector and to keep the lights on for businesses and homes by 2050.

“Using lessons learned from our first successful solicitation of 1,100 mw, we are very excited to move forward with our second offshore wind solicitation, which could bring the state up to a total of 3,500 mw of offshore wind energy,’’ said BPU president Joseph Fiordaliso.

An executive order issued in 2018 by Murphy directed BPU and other state agencies to move toward a goal of 3,500 MW of offshore wind generation by 2030. In June 2019, the BPU approved the state’s first offshore wind farm, the 1,100 MW Ocean Wind facility off Atlantic City by Ørsted. It is anticipated that it will be operating in 2024.

Last November, Murphy signed another executive order, this time to increase the state’s offshore wind generation goal to 7,500 MW by 2035. The action signified the competitiveness among states along the Eastern Seaboard to become the hub of a new offshore wind industry. New York has even more aggressive goals than New Jersey to use offshore wind as a way of supplying electricity to customers.

Eyeing thousands of new jobs

Advocates argue the transition to clean-energy projects like offshore wind could fuel a green economy that will provide thousands of well-paying jobs, at the same time helping the coastal state in combating the impacts of climate change.

Last month, Murphy unveiled plans to develop the first port in the nation solely geared to serve the offshore wind sector. Located on Artificial Island in Salem County, the port is anticipated to be the assembly point for the turbines to power offshore wind farms along the New Jersey coast, but also elsewhere on the Eastern Seaboard.

The ramp-up was welcomed by clean-energy advocates, who have been pushing New Jersey to move even more aggressively on building offshore wind capability.

“The investment the earlier we make, the better it is,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “It is a race to the top for offshore wind.’’

While the administration’s offshore wind goals enjoy wide support, including from some of New Jersey’s major business groups, there is still some wariness about the potential cost and impact on energy bills.

“We support offshore wind and the governor’s clean energy goals, but we still want to do it in a responsible manner,’’ said Ray Cantor, a vice president at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

There are still some unanswered questions regarding the first solicitation, Cantor noted, citing where the onshore connections from the offshore wind farm will be and what it will cost, as well as the impact on ratepayers.

The current timeline in the second solicitation guidance document anticipates the BPU considering the issue in September. Applications would then be accepted in December 2020 with a final decision by the board in June 2021.

In the first solicitation, three developers vied to build the first 1,100 MW of offshore wind capacity, with the BPU accepting an application by Ørsted, a Danish company that has emerged as the biggest player along the Eastern Seaboard.

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