Study Touts Economic Gains from Offshore Wind Projects

Tom Johnson | April 25, 2013 | Energy & Environment
Report by supporters claims up to 600 jobs could be created in South Jersey

Up to 600 jobs related to the manufacture of equipment could be created for up to 19 months in South Jersey, according to a study aimed at bolstering a proposed $5 billion offshore wind-transmission line.

The report, commissioned by the Atlantic Wind Connection, concluded that it is feasible to build platforms that would essentially be offshore wind substations that would convert electricity from offshore wind farms to be delivered to customers on shore, according to its sponsors. They declined to release the study, saying it was confidential.

The study is the latest claim to suggest that Paulsboro could become a hub of a fledgling offshore wind industry. Fishermen’s Energy’s Atlantic Wind Farm has said it has a commitment from a Chinese manufacturer of wind turbines to locate a manufacturing facility in Paulsboro, if its offshore wind project is approved.

Neither project has been warmly embraced]by the Christie administration, which publicly has touted offshore wind as a way to create thousands of well-paying “green” jobs and jump-starting a “green” economy in New Jersey.

The state Division of Rate Counsel’s consultant and one retained by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities both have argued the proposed wind farm three miles off of Atlantic City would not deliver economic benefits to the state.

The Atlantic Wind Connection is touted by proponents, including Google, as a way of making offshore wind more competitive, economically, with more conventional ways of producing electricity.

The proposal, which is being reviewed by PJM Interconnection, the operator of the nation’s largest power grid, calls for building a 300-mile long offshore transmission line.

The developer hopes to win approval for the project from PJM this fall. While many environmental groups support offshore wind, they have some reservations about the offshore wind-transmission system. They worry the line could be in place before offshore wind farms are developed, which could result in the line being used to transmit energy from coal plants to the metropolitan area.

The first part of the project would be constructed off the Jersey coast, costing approximately $2 billion, according to Thomas Cosentino, a spokesman for the project. The New Jersey link, buried under the ocean, would span the length of the state and could carry 3,000 megawatts of electricity. The developers hope to begin construction in 2016 and start providing electricity in 2019.

“We have always looked a the Port of Paulsboro to potentially play a significant role in our plans for building the New Jersey Energy Line,’’ said Bob Mitchell, chief executive officer of Atlantic Wind Connection. “This analysis is a crucial step in establishing a relationship between the Paulsboro Marine Terminal and the AWC,’’ he said.

The project is strongly supported by South Jersey lawmakers, who view it as a way to create jobs in a region hit hard by the economic slowdown.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who was a major force in promoting offshore wind, has been particularly critical of the Christie administration for failing to adopt a funding mechanism that would make such projects more feasible.

At least 11 developers have expressed interest in building wind farms off the Jersey coast, but so far the federal government has yet to offer offshore leases to build the projects.