Offshore Wind in NJ: Meeting the state’s clean energy and economic goals

As offshore wind starts to pick up speed in New Jersey, key issues must be addressed

Offshore wind is emerging as a significant source of power in New Jersey. The state already has approved a 1,100-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City, which could be operational by mid-decade. Next week, it could approve double that capacity in a new solicitation offered by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

Those events could vault New Jersey into being a hub of the fast-growing offshore wind industry along the Eastern Seaboard, a goal repeatedly suggested during a wide-ranging discussion during last week’s NJ Spotlight News virtual roundtable. The event brought together clean-energy advocates, policymakers, offshore-wind developers, and marine biologists.

Opening remarks:

David Hardy, Chief Executive Officer, Ørsted Offshore North America

Panelists:

Gov. James J. Florio, Founding Partner, Florio Perrucci Steinhardt Cappelli Tipton & Taylor, Senior Fellow, Public Policy and Administration, Edward J. Bloustein Graduate School of Public Policy, Rutgers University

Dr. Josh Kohut, Professor, Center for Ocean Observing Leadership, Rutgers University

 Kris Ohleth, Executive Director, Special Initiative on Offshore Wind

 Doug O’Malley, State Director, Environment New Jersey

Moderator:

Tom Johnson, Energy/Environment Writer, NJ Spotlight News

The following are edited excerpts from the conversation, including David Hardy’s opening remarks:

On prospects for offshore wind in New Jersey:

David Hardy: We share Gov. Murphy’s vision to establish New Jersey as a hub of the American offshore wind industry, and we strongly believe that it will happen. We’re already seeing the benefits associated with bringing this new industry to the state with examples such as the Paulsboro Monopile facility in partnership with German foundation supplier EEW, which recently began construction.

Gov. Florio:  The 30-year head start that the Europeans have over us in terms of getting this moving ahead turns out to be an advantage for us because we have learned from what they have done. We have benefitted from the technology benefits from. The cost saving that they’ve yielded over that period of time. New Jersey is well situated to take advantage of these conditions as a leader.

Why offshore wind farms are likely to grow:

Kris Ohleth: This is a national initiative to get to, as the governor mentioned, 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by the year 2030. That is the first time this is has been a national target for offshore wind power And it gives the opportunity for the industry to come into alignment … The most responsible way to bring clean power to coastal states is through these resources that are directly adjacent to our coasts.

How will offshore wind impact the ocean and marine life:

Dr. Josh Kohut: When we think about offshore wind and where it is being deployed, we have to understand these dynamics because it is not just us and our interaction with the ocean, but it’s also the ecology, the wildlife, fisheries, many of the other organisms that we share this space with that also responding to that variability. And it becomes incredibly complex and something that really needs to be considered in the planning of offshore wind.

What offshore wind means for climate change:

Doug O’Malley: I wanted to talk to briefly on the offshore wind and the context specifically of the climate crisis and the fact that obviously, when we think of the largest existential threat to this nation, certainly the state and the world, climate change is becoming the largest threat that we are facing, not just for our generation, but for generations hence.

And that is the kind of whole point I want to make here, is that we are in an existential race to be able to save the shore. We literally have billions of dollars of real estate, tens of thousands of homes in harm’s way, and the solutions that other communities are starting to address. But the simple reality is we can’t build our way out of the climate crisis.

Will offshore wind increase bill for ratepayers:

Gov Florio: One of the concepts that we’re going to take into account, I suspect, is the whole idea of this cost benefit-analysis, making a determination as to what the real cost is of things you are experiencing.  And in this situation, the externalities are very important. That is to say, the costs that you avoid when we go shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy like solar and wind, what you are doing is the net amount of money that you are paying ultimately is much, much reduced with the externalities of health consequences, other things associated with fossil fuels.

Reducing carbon footprint of generation of electricity:

Kris Ohleth: What’s different about offshore wind is 25 to 30 years of emissions-free energy, and no other resource can claim that type of awesome record while creating a new industry in the state of New Jersey. So I’m not saying that there are not impacts because of any type of energy generation. But what’s important to look at is compared to other resources, what is the best bang for the buck? And I think we see offshore wind really checking a lot of those boxes.

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