NJ takes major step to harness Atlantic Ocean’s wind energy

New Jersey has more than a hundred oceanfront miles and now it wants developers to bid to harness the Atlantic’s winds to generate more than 1,100 megawatts of energy, or enough power for 500,000 houses.

Board members call it a major push back against climate change. The 1,100 megawatts represent about a third of what Gov. Phil Murphy demanded in his executive order number 8, which he issued just days after his January swearing-in.

“I happen to believe the scientists that climate change is real, and is a real threat to our way of life,” said Joe Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

The window for bidding opens Thursday, Sept. 20 and closes at the end of 2018, with the aim of qualifying for federal investment tax credits by the end of 2019. New Jersey’s set a list of strict requirements for each application and is charging a hefty fee.

“Bidders will be required under the statute to pay a $150,000 application fee,” said Ken Sheehan, director of the Clean Energy Division at the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. “There are six primary criteria — they are the OREC purchase price, the economic impacts for the state, ratepayer impacts, environmental impacts, the strength of the guarantees of economic impacts and the likelihood of successful commercial completion. The purpose of this is not wind at any cost, it is to do this well, to do this smart.”

“And I’m so happy that we’re in the front of the queue for a change instead of being the last state in so many of these initiatives,” said New Jersey BPU commissioner, Mary-Anna Holden.

Murphy said in a statement Monday, “In the span of nine months, New Jersey has vaulted to the front of the pack in establishing this cutting-edge industry. We campaigned on rebuilding New Jersey’s reputation as a clean energy leader and that involves setting an aggressive timetable on offshore wind.”

Environmentalists welcomed the vote.

“We’ve been waiting now for nine years to really make offshore wind a reality, and today was the first real step to make it happen,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

“We have great wind off the Jersey Shore, all we have to do is to harness it, and right now we’re in a race to the top,” said Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley.

The state and advocates say the cost of wind energy has fallen since 2010 and turbines have become much more efficient.

“It is time to open the window and to welcome offshore wind to New Jersey,” said Fiordaliso.

The Board of Public Utilities’ unanimous vote opens a 3-month window for developers to offer their applications to provide offshore wind energy to New Jersey — energy that’s considered cleaner, cheaper and safer.

Lead funding for Peril and Promise is provided by Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and Diana T. Vagelos. Major support is provided by Marc Haas Foundation and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim, III.