Offshore Wind Bids for NY and MA, Sector Remains Becalmed in NJ

Tom Johnson | March 13, 2017 | Energy & Environment
New Jersey has yet to cash in on its offshore wind potential; developers not likely to start generating electricity before 2023

The energy potential of offshore wind continues to lure developers to the waters off the Eastern Seaboard.

The federal government announced Friday that two firms have submitted unsolicited bids to build wind farms located in the waters off Massachusetts and New York.

The two projects underline the emerging market to tap the vast wind resources along the coast. These are already being exploited by the nation’s first offshore wind farm, which started operating off Rhode Island last December.

Two other developers are conducting studies to build turbines off the Jersey coast, having spent nearly $2 million to secure leases from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for approximately 300,000 acres. It will be several years, possibly until 2023, before they start producing electricity.

The offshore wind developers in New Jersey are U.S. Wind Inc. and DONG Energy, both of which are conducting site assessment studies that may not be finished until next May.

The slow progress is frustrating to clean-energy advocates who pushed the Christie administration to promote offshore wind, a goal it partially achieved by adopting a target of at least 1,100 megawatts by 2020. Despite that goal, however, the state has never adopted a fiscal mechanism that would pay the offshore wind farms for the electricity they would produce.

“The demand for wind is growing and that is good for the economy and the environment,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “While wind off of New York keeps expanding, wind off our coast has stalled and not gotten anywhere.’’

On Friday, PNE Wind USA, Inc., submitted an unsolicited lease request for 40,920 acres off New York. In Massachusetts, PNE Wind and Statoil Wind USA LLC both submitted lease requests for approximately 388,000 acres in two separate areas.

In December, the federal agency announced that Statoil won an auction of 79,350 acres about 12 miles from Jones Beach on Long Island.

The latest interest in developing new offshore wind comes at a time of uncertainty for the sector, with a new administration in place in Washington. President Donald Trump is viewed as an advocate of fossil fuels and a critic of renewable energy.

Although Gov. Chris Christie signed a law more than six years ago promoting offshore wind, his views of the technology have cooled because of the cost of electricity produced by the turbines.

Many in the business community share that concern, fearing offshore wind could boost costs in a state already saddled with high energy bills.