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New Jersey in Right Place to Reap Benefits of Emerging Offshore-Wind Sector

At NJ Spotlight offshore-wind roundtable, advocates help chart a path to administration’s aggressive goal — 3,500 megawatts of capacity by 2030

liz burdock
Liz Burdock, president and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind

By 2030, more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity could be produced from wind turbines located along the Eastern Seaboard, with New Jersey well-positioned to reap the economic benefits associated with this emerging industry, according to offshore wind advocates.

The Murphy administration’s aggressive goals to build more than one-third of that projected capacity make it an attractive place to invest and grow the sector, proponents said at a NJ Spotlight event on the state’s energy future in Hamilton on Friday.

Offshore wind is viewed as a key component of Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to have 100 percent of New Jersey’s power come from renewable energy by 2050. By 2030, the state hopes to develop 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity; it plans to decide next spring who will build an initial 1,100 megawatts, followed by two additional solicitations of 1,200 megawatts each in 2020 and 2022, respectively. Only one offshore wind farm in Rhode Island is currently operating in the United States.

Delivering transparency and a timeline

“You’ve done everything right to attract the industry to the state,’’ said Liz Burdock, president and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, a panelist at the roundtable. “You have given them scale; you have given them transparency; and you’ve given them a timeline. What I think you will see is an enormous amount of job growth and investment in the state.’’

Thomas Brostrøm, president of Ørsted North America, a leading offshore wind developer with projects in six states, said his company is excited about developments in New Jersey and the wider Eastern Seaboard relative to renewables and offshore wind. “We basically can see 10,000 megawatts built essentially over the next 10 years, and that is very, very big,’’ he said.

If all those projects get built, it could create 96,000 jobs in the region, Burdock said. “It’s a big pie — there is a lot to go around,’’ she added, especially if states cooperate in growing the sector instead of competing against one another.

In New Jersey, the flurry of activity around offshore wind contrasts with the lull associated with former Gov. Chris Christie, who signed an offshore-wind bill more than eight years ago but backed away from supporting development because of concerns over cost. Those concerns, given that those costs are likely to be shouldered by utility customers already burdened with high energy bills, remain.

High cost of doing nothing

Board of Public Utilities President Joseph Fiordaliso
Joseph Fiordaliso, president, Board of Public Utilities

But Board of Public Utilities president Joseph Fiordaliso, whose agency is overseeing the state’s offshore wind plan, noted that prices are going down in a keynote to kick off the event. “Can we afford not to spend the money?’’ he asked, referring to offshore wind’s importance to mitigating the effects of climate change.

Others argued the costs for offshore wind, much like those for solar, have declined dramatically in the past few years. “The U.S. and New Jersey has hit the timing absolutely perfect,’’ Brostrøm said, noting costs have dropped by more than 60 percent.

The state has long been targeted as one of the best places to locate offshore wind farms, largely because of bountiful wind resources off the coast and a relatively shallow continental shelf. The ocean off New Jersey also has the most variable temperatures from summer to winter in the world, a big factor in its wind resources, according to Josh Kohut, an associate professor at the Center of Ocean Observing Leadership at Rutgers University.

Getting the power to the shore

One of the biggest issues the state has yet to sort out is who will build the transmission lines that will deliver power from the wind farms to the people and businesses that will rely on that electricity. The wind-farm developers want to control that process; others argue it should be open to competition to drive down costs to ratepayers.

clarke bruno
Clarke Bruno, lead partner of Anbaric, an independent transmission company

“Infrastructure is the key to the growth of offshore wind in New Jersey,’’ argued Clarke Bruno, lead partner of Anbaric, an independent transmission company. “Transmission is the only path to market. When that path is narrowed, competition is constrained,’’ he said.

Offshore wind developers disagreed. One developer controlling offshore wind generation and transmission can optimize design, size, and location, Brostrøm argued. Transmission accounts for less than roughly 20 percent of the overall project cost.

For the initial round of projects, it is unlikely developing an offshore wind transmission system is the way to go, according to Doug Copeland, regional project manager of EDF Renewables, a company seeking to build a pilot 25-megawatt project three miles off Atlantic City.

His company is pushing the Nautilus Offshore Wind LLC pilot as a way to iron out many of the outstanding issues associated with building the first wind farm off the state’s coast. “To go from zero to 3,500 megawatts is a big step,’’ Copeland said. The pilot, previously rejected twice by the BPU, is once again before the agency.

Fiordaliso told the audience there is no question the state will achieve its goal of building 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030. “With your help, we will do it right,’’ he said.

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