New Jersey has a unique — and imminent — opportunity to capture a large portion of the lucrative Mid-Atlantic offshore wind market right now. We strongly agree with Gov. Murphy’s assessment of the state’s potential to serve as a coastal industry hub, but in order to elevate New Jersey as a market leader we must act now as other states begin to get their own projects off the ground. The opportunity to secure additional large-scale, commercial offshore wind projects, and jumpstart New Jersey’s economy, lies in setting the foundation of a skilled workforce and the necessary infrastructure. Nautilus Offshore Wind, already equipped with the necessary permitting, is a small-scale project that would immediately prepare New Jersey to take on the challenge of leading the offshore wind revolution.
Our state’s potential to dominate the offshore wind market is what first captured the attention of EDF Renewables, who we have partnered with to build the Nautilus project. Whether or not New Jersey succeeds in its efforts to emerge as an industry leader will fully depend on our ability to properly train workers and meet the specific infrastructure needs for offshore wind facilities. EDF Renewables is offering this opportunity now, with the three-turbine Nautilus project to serve as our training ground and head start in the U.S. race for offshore wind development. These projects require highly capable and technical workers to first assemble and install turbines in the ocean, and then to manage the facility’s continued operations over its lifetime. At the same time, New Jersey’s coastlines will also need a robust supply chain and manufacturing systems in place to develop larger commercial projects, as well as ports that can support turbine assembly and transportation.
If we try to begin with a large-scale offshore wind project, New Jersey will be unprepared for its construction and maintenance, and the jobs will likely go to more experienced workers from outside the state. As a smaller project, Nautilus offers an opportunity to give local workers the skills they need now to get hired for larger projects in the future. Additionally, Nautilus will provide apprenticeship programs even to individuals who are not hired for this specific project, and its leadership has been working closely with regional labor unions to ensure that future projects hire locally. Moreover, Nautilus will help us figure out what approaches to construction work best for New Jersey specifically, while identifying obstacles on a smaller scale — allowing us to work more safely and efficiently as we scale up to help rebuild and diversify Atlantic City’s economy.
Could be up and running by 2020
Of equal importance, Nautilus is the only offshore wind project with its permitting already in place, and can be up and running as soon as 2020. As it stands, states up and down the East Coast are competing to become the offshore wind industry’s epicenter, prompting recent proposals to build offshore facilities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York that are designed to meet lofty wind energy production targets. If the Nautilus project does not receive approval, New Jersey risks missing its opportunity to lead the way on offshore wind. If we fail to act now, other states will undoubtedly replace New Jersey as the first movers for massive projects expected to materialize down the line. And if other states surpass us in developing a skilled labor pool, we risk developers of future projects hiring an experienced workforce from outside the state.
New Jersey doesn’t have time to wait. The Nautilus project offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our state to develop the workforce and expertise that will allow future commercial-scale projects to be built more efficiently, safely and at a reduced cost. Gov. Murphy’s vision of an economic boom for New Jersey, driven by clean, renewable energy and marked by rapid job growth, is within reach — now we must seize the opportunity by approving the Nautilus offshore wind project.