Murphy Unveils Plan to Make NJ Hub of East Coast’s Offshore Wind Industry

Tom Johnson | June 17, 2020 | Energy & Environment
The New Jersey Wind Port in Salem County would be the assembly point for massive turbines and other components of offshore wind farms
Credit: NJ Governor's Office
A rendering of the New Jersey Wind Port in Salem County

Gov. Phil Murphy has unveiled plans to develop the first port in the nation solely intended as a location to serve the offshore wind sector, a step that could make New Jersey the hub of the emerging industry.

The New Jersey Wind Port, on Artificial Island in Salem County — home of the state’s three nuclear power plants — initially would serve as the assembly point for the turbines to power offshore wind farms not only off the state, but for other projects up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

Eventually, New Jersey hopes to attract various manufacturers that provide the cables, foundations, and other necessary components of an offshore wind farm to the 200-acre site in Lower Alloways Creek owned by the Public Service Enterprise Group.

“The New Jersey Wind Port will create thousands of high-quality jobs, bring millions of investment dollars to the state, and establish New Jersey as the national capital of offshore wind,’’ Murphy said Tuesday in a news release.

The port is the latest proposal by the governor to help achieve a goal of 100% clean energy by mid-century, with offshore wind a central component of that plan. By 2035, the state hopes to have 7,500 megawatts of electricity produced by offshore wind farms. The first 1,100 MW farm offshore of Atlantic City is not expected to be operating until 2024.

Florio: ‘Silicon Valley’ of wind energy industry

Clean-energy advocates and others welcomed the announcement, which followed months of deliberation over how to spur investment in the sector. Former Gov. Jim Florio said the initiative could turn New Jersey into the “Silicon Valley of the wind energy industry.’’

The administration projects the wind port will cost between $300-$400 million to fully build, with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority splitting the cost among a range of public, private and public/private financing options. As in other clean-energy programs, however, either taxpayers or utility customers likely will bear a portion of those expenses.

Credit: NJ Governor's Office
A rendering of the New Jersey Wind Port showing the different phases of development

The EDA did not respond to a call requesting details about the financing.

For more than a year, the site of the proposed port has been under consideration as a possible location to assemble the huge wind turbines — which are expected to be more than  850-feet tall — for the first offshore wind project off the coast of Atlantic City.

Last May, PSEG gave Ocean Wind, the project developed by Ørsted that won approval for the first offshore wind farm in the state, access to the Lower Alloways Creek as a place to assemble the turbines to generate power for its Atlantic City wind farm.

The site was advantageous because of its location on Delaware Bay. Turbines assembled there would not have to pass under the Delaware Memorial Bridge in order to be shipped to the wind farm 15 miles off Atlantic City. The turbines, which stand vertically on vessels as they are shipped out to the proposed wind farm, could not pass under the bridge.

Best thing out of NJ ‘since the Boss’

“This is the best thing I’ve heard to come out of New Jersey since the Boss,’’ said Liz Burdock, CEO and president of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, an organization trying to build a supply chain for the sector.

“By providing a location that can accommodate the industry’s manufacturing and marshalling needs, the New Jersey Wind Port would make New Jersey an international leader in offshore wind and a hub of the East Coast wind industry,’’ she said.

The site was selected after a 22-month assessment process, including discussions with industry officials, government and environmental groups, according to the governor’s office. The site is more than five miles from the nearest residential area and has ample space to grow operations over time. Most existing of the port infrastructure along the East Coast is unable to accommodate the assembly of the turbines.

PSEG is currently negotiating the terms of the lease agreement with the state, according to Marijke Shugrue, a spokeswoman for PSEG.

Construction is planned in two phases for the port, beginning in 2021. A 30-acre site will be developed to accommodate marshalling activities and a 25-acre manufacturing site. Eventually, up to 1,500 people could be employed at the site, according to the administration.

While many states, including New York and Massachusetts have been setting ambitious targets for developing offshore wind, there is only one small offshore wind farm operating, a five-turbine facility off the coast of Rhode Island, which is also operated by Ørsted. New Jersey plans to solicit bids to build another 1,200 MW of offshore wind later this year.

“We will take full advantage of our world-leading and central geographic location — one that is perfectly situated for offshore wind marshalling — to drive growth of a new industry right here,’’ Murphy said during a press conference earlier on the coronavirus. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.’’