Hope for offshore wind to have big impact on state economy

Gov. Phil Murphy has set the bar high for accelerating the growth of the offshore wind industry in New Jersey.

Seven months after the governor announced a major push to promote the industry — wind energy developers, state officials, labor unions and others associated with offshore wind — gathered in Atlantic City at a conference called “Time for Turbines” to see which way the wind is blowing.

“It’s going very fast,” said former governor Jim Florio. “Unfortunately, we’ve wasted a lot of time over the past few years, but this is a major initiative for the state, for the economy, for the environment. We’re talking about creating a whole new industry.”

And that means onshore stuff, too, manufacturing, logistics, construction. Thousands of jobs at stake if the state can just get things going. Panelists say there’s gold in that there wind, up to 30,000 new jobs overall. But what can Jersey expect to see from that?

“That brings us to around 10 to 18,000 jobs by 2028, and that’s an exciting number,” said Brian Sabina, the senior vice president of Economic Transformation at the Economic Development Authority. “There is a two to two and a half times multiplier effect on those jobs. So that 10 to 18,000 jobs is we get our fair share grows to 25 to 40,000 jobs that could be supported by this industry and these are new jobs that just largely were not in New Jersey, and for a state that has been lagging for the last ten years this is a huge opportunity.”

Panelists and speakers like the president of the Board of Public Utilities gave Murphy credit for ambitious goal-setting.

“We are going to have 35 megawatts of offshore wind-generated power by 2030 and we are going to be 100 percent renewable-generated energy by 2050,” said BPU President Joe Fiordaliso.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, who sponsored the 2010 Off-Shore Wind Economic Development Act, admitted that a lot of time, if not much energy, has been spent waiting for the government to make good on the promise of that bill.

“As we figure out some of the other issues like transmission lines – are they individual or multiple – there’s a lot of conversations going on about that, but the reality is we’re right on the threshold, and I’m excited about it,” said the Senate president.

There was plenty of optimism here. Industry leader Orsted has already set up shop in the state, and Jersey’s position smack in the middle of a coastline that has the potential for 10 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity are all solid signs. But so far the gains – after seven months – are more aspirational than actual.