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Companies ask N.J. to green light offshore wind farms

The bids are in. Now state regulators will decide if and how the Garden State will triple its commitment to offshore wind.

A pair of proposals for new wind farms off the Jersey Shore were submitted to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities on Thursday, the final day of a solicitation that began in September. The board will now review the proposals.

Gov. Phil Murphy has set a goal for New Jersey to generate 7,500 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind by 2035. So far the state has given its blessing to one project: Ocean Wind, being built by Danish wind company Ørsted, which will generate 1,100 megawatts off of Atlantic City when it becomes operational in 2024.

With this solicitation the BPU is seeking to commit to between 1,200 and 2,400 more megawatts of generation. The two new bids the board will have to choose from are another from Ørsted and one from Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, a joint venture of EDF Renewables and oil giant Shell.

The Atlantic Shores project calls for up to 2,300 megawatts, enough electricity to power 1 million homes, according to a press release. The offshore wind farm would be built about 10 to 20 miles off the Shore between Atlantic City and Barnegat Light, on a 183,353 acre plot of ocean leased from the federal government.

“As the holder of one of the largest offshore wind leases in the United States, Atlantic Shores has an incredible opportunity to help meet New Jersey’s demand for clean, affordable energy within our 180,000 acres,” Jennifer Daniels, the company’s development director, said in a statement.

Atlantic Shores’ pitch includes a scholarship program with Rutgers to bring first-generation, low-income students into the offshore wind industry, as well as a scholarship program with Rowan College at Burlington County to develop the industry’s workforce in the state.

“These partnerships will help build strong local talent pools for Atlantic Shores, at the same time enabling New Jersey workers to be on the ground floor of a massive new industry,” said Joris Veldhoven, the company’s commercial director. “We look forward to furthering our investment in partnerships like these for many years to come.”

Ørsted’s new bid, meanwhile, is dubbed Ocean Wind 2. It’s separate from the existing Ocean Wind project, which was approved in 2019 and is currently under development. Ocean Wind 2 could produce up to 2,400 megawatts of power, more than twice what the original Ocean Wind will be capable of.

In a press release, Ørsted said its new bid includes “significant” investments in offshore wind manufacturing in New Jersey and workforce training programs.

“As New Jersey looks to rebuild its economy in the wake of COVID-19 and positions itself as a leader in the new American offshore wind industry, Ørsted is uniquely positioned to help the state achieve its goals,” David Hardy, the CEO of Ørsted Offshore North America, said in a statement.

It is unclear how much Atlantic Shores or Ocean Wind 2 would cost to develop if approved.

The BPU will now review the submitted bids, and decide whether or not to award approvals in June, according to board spokesman Peter Peretzman. If the board decides to award the full 2,400 megawatts, New Jersey would be committed to have 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind power online by 2027.

The state will open a third solicitation for offshore wind farms in 2022, Peretzman added.

Last month, the BPU began exploring options to bring electricity produced in the Atlantic to the mainland. Earlier this year, state officials announced plans to build a port in Salem County dedicated to supporting offshore wind. That project – dubbed the New Jersey Wind Port – is expected to create 1,500 permanent jobs and generate $500 million in annual economic activity.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.