New Road Map for Murphy Administration’s Offshore Wind Ambitions

Tom Johnson | July 16, 2020 | Energy & Environment
No big surprises — or detailed costings — in draft Offshore Wind Strategic Plan, which sets out how New Jersey will develop the clean-energy industry while protecting the environment, resources and fisheries
Credit: doskey12 from Pixabay
According to the plan, offshore wind will supply 23% of the electricity to customers throughout the state by 2050.

The state has developed a road map for how it will build 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity off the coast within 15 years, a goal the Murphy administration says will help New Jersey become a hub for the fast-growing sector.

The draft Offshore Wind Strategic Plan (OWSP) offers no new major revelations, but instead focuses on a series of priorities the state intends to follow in trying to build a robust offshore wind industry here while protecting its environmental and natural resources, as well as commercial and recreational fisheries.

Offshore wind is viewed as a critical component of the state’s efforts to combat climate change and seen as key to help grow a green economy in New Jersey and provide thousands of high-paying jobs. By 2050, offshore wind will supply 23% of the electricity to customers throughout the state, according to the 501-page plan.

“The development of New Jersey’s offshore wind infrastructure will create thousands of high-quality jobs, bring millions of investment dollars to our state, and make our state a global leader in offshore wind development and deployment,’’ Gov. Phil Murphy said in a preamble to the draft plan.

The clean-energy goal, however, has raised concerns among consumer advocates and business groups, who fear the transition to cleaner energy will spike what they view as already steep energy bills for residents and businesses in New Jersey.

The draft plan does not address potential costs in detail, although it acknowledges the upgrading of port facilities around New Jersey to serve the offshore wind sector will require hundreds of millions of dollars in investments.

“The goal of the OWSP is to ensure competition, competitive pricing, net economic benefit, environmental and natural resource protection and the overall best value for New Jersey ratepayers,’’ according to the plan.

No bottom line

Nevertheless, it does not offer a rough estimate of what it will take to build out the 7,500 MW offshore capacity and it does not provide associated costs for that process, including the numerous financial incentives mentioned in the draft, the cost of upgrading port facilities, and numerous studies it suggests need to be undertaken to protect natural resources and fisheries.

“We support offshore wind,’’ said Dennis Hart, executive director of the Chemistry Industry Council of New Jersey, “but at some point, the state Board of Public Utilities has promised its analysis of what it will cost ratepayers. So far, we haven’t seen anything.’’

BPU President Joseph Fiordaliso, at the agency’s bimonthly meeting on Wednesday, described the draft as providing a comprehensive road map to achieving the goal of 7,500 MW of offshore wind by 2035, while providing the best value to ratepayers.

The draft offers a series of recommendations focusing on five priorities: protection of environmental and natural resources; maintaining viable commercial and recreational fisheries; building a supply chain and training a workforce; identifying potential ports and harbors to serve the sector; and addressing the transmission infrastructure to bring power from the offshore wind farms to residents and businesses.

The latter issue has been controversial with offshore wind developers, so far, opting to build those lines to points on land. Others advocate a so-called backbone transmission system that would allow wind energy to be wheeled up and down the coast. The draft recommends further study on the issue.

The draft suggests two ports will have significant roles in early development of offshore wind — the New Jersey Wind Port in Salem County adjacent to the nuclear units there and Paulsboro. They will be especially critical in the rollout of the state’s first offshore wind farm by Ørsted 15 miles from Atlantic City. The 1,100 MW Ocean Wind project is not expected to be operating until 2024.

The BPU is expected to seek an additional solicitation for offshore wind projects later this year.