In June the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy made a splash at the shore when the state board of public utilities approved a $1.6 billion wind farm 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City.
Local environmental officials say the rippling waves of that announcement could soon be felt in the Bayshore region, with two additional rounds of wind farm application approvals to come in the next three years and a site situated near Sandy Hook and New York already eyed for development.
The first project in Murphy’s three-part plan to generate 3.5 gigawatts of wind energy by 2030 was awarded to the United States branch of Ørsted, a Danish power company that proposed a 1.1 gigawatt project in Atlantic City waters. It is the largest offshore wind project ever awarded in the country. The next two projects call for even larger developments, soliciting 1.2 gigawatt constructions.
The lease on a Raritan Bay site was signed in March 2017 by the Norwegian organization Equinor, which proposes a pizza-slice-shaped wind farm on 80,000 acres of federal waters. The tip of the slice is located 19.5 miles off the coast of Sandy Hook and 14 miles away from Jones Inlet on Long Island.
If the proposal is adopted Equinor estimates construction will begin at some point between 2022 and 2023, with the first power available in 2024 or 2025. Estimates have the project powering 1 million New Jersey homes.
Clean Ocean Action executive director Cindy Zipf said Murphy’s goal is one worth pursuing, but only if projects in coastal waters are done responsibly.
“We want to work toward ensuring while we move ahead with this industrial but green energy use, that it’s done with respect and protection to our ocean. We need to make sure that during the process that marine life is not compromised and the implementation is as green as possible. Where exactly will they be built? How will they be moved? What exactly will the impact be? These are things we need to know,” Zipf said.
In a media release, the Murphy administration said the Ørsted project, titled Ocean Wind, is expected to power an estimated 500,000 New Jersey homes and generate $1.17 billion in economic benefits, in addition to creating an estimated 15,000 jobs over the life of the project.
Murphy called the board of public utilities announcement “historic” and said it will “revolutionize the offshore wind industry in New Jersey and along the entire East Coast.”
Through a recent announcement, Atlantic Highlands environmental commission chair Jim Krauss said he believes it was six years in the making.
Krauss said six years ago he and other environmental stewards, maritime professionals and recreational fishing leaders participated in a study led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory under an interagency agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
“We spent a day at Monmouth University explaining to these federal officials where people were fishing, sailing, surfing, etc.,” Krauss said. “They were trying to determine where they could put this wind farm so it wouldn’t conflict with any of the ocean users.”
Krauss said the officials he spoke to were very concerned about projects negatively impacting the state’s multibillion dollar tourism and commercial fishing industries.
“They basically told us, ‘we’re not here to tell you where we think they could be placed, we’re here to find out from you where they shouldn’t be.’ It was encouraging to hear because we’ve seen wind farms placed along fishing channels in Copenhagen and they can be a big annoyance,” Krauss added.
Preceding this announcement was the May launch of the New Jersey Offshore Wind Supply Chain Registry, which allows companies, technical professionals and contractors to indicate their interest and offer their abilities to supply components and services for the offshore wind projects in New Jersey’s coastal waters and along the entire Eastern Seaboard.
New Jersey Economic Development Agency CEO Tim Sullivan said the Ørsted project and the creation of the registry “represent a major milestone toward our goal of becoming the capital of the American wind industry.”
Ørsted anticipates construction will begin in 2022 or 2023. The first power would be produced and circulated in 2024 in cooperation with PSEG Power.
“Today we have taken another important step forward into our 100 percent clean energy future,” said Joseph L. Fiordaliso, NJBPU president. “With today’s award of 1,100 MW of offshore wind, a safer, healthier future for New Jersey is looking brighter and closer than ever.”