The state of New Jersey is a solar leader in North America, and now it has a chance to help lead the US into developing its vast, as yet untapped offshore wind energy potential along the sprawling Atlantic Coast. The Obama Administration has announced that it is set to auction off leases for the New Jersey Wind Energy Area, which could total up to more than 3,400 megawatts when fully built out.
That’s quite a leap forward for a state that, under its current governor (this guy), has slashed and burned its way through a raft of regional initiatives intended to reduce carbon emissions.
Offshore Wind Leases For New Jersey
The New Jersey offshore wind auction adds another huge chunk to an ongoing lease program under the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), a division of the Interior Department.
So far, BOEM has awarded seven competitive offshore wind leases and two additional leases totaling more than 700,000 acres off the coasts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia. The New Jersey offshore wind area includes another 343,833 acres.
The New Jersey acres are located off the southern part of the state, consisting of two chunks. Refer to the map above and you’ll see the North Lease Area in green, at 183,353 acres. The brown South Lease Area includes 160,480 acres.
The New Jersey acres will go on the market in a competitive lease project next month, on November 9. According the BOEM you could expect bids from these 13 qualified companies:
Convalt Energy LLC
GSOE I LLC
EDF Renewable Energy Development Inc.
Energy Management Inc.
Fishermen’s Energy LLC
Green Sail Energy LLC
IBERDROLA RENEWABLES Inc.
New Jersey Offshore Wind LLC
RES America Developments Inc.
Sea Breeze Energy LLC
US Mainstream Renewable Power (Offshore) Inc.
U.S. Wind Inc.
We’re particularly interested in Fishermen’s Energy because that company has been locked in a cage match tag team death struggle (okay, so legal battle) with the State of New Jersey over offshore wind energy development for about eight years, since its founding in 2007.
Among the recent developments, in April 2014 Fishermen’s Energy was one of three companies tapped to share $141 million in Energy Department funding designed to support innovative offshore wind technology, which industry observers (including us) took as a sign that the company could finally push forward with its plans to build a demo wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City.
No such luck. Even with Energy Department’s hefty assist (Fisherman’s share of the Energy Department’s funding was $47 million), the state’s Board of Public Utilities ignored the findings of its own consultant and declined to permit the project.
Last June Fisherman’s took its case to the New Jersey Supreme Court, so stay tuned for more on that.
Whatever Happened To New Jersey’s “Windpower Movement?”
Meanwhile it’s worth recalling that back in 2010, the year that its current governor first took office, New Jersey legislators passed a new state law requiring New Jersey to develop its wind energy resources. That year, New Jersey also joined nine other states in the Interior Department’s new Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium, which was designed to coordinate and accelerate offshore wind energy development along the Atlantic coast.
In an August 2010 press release announcing New Jersey’s ambitious new wind energy legislation, the Governor had this to say:
The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act will provide New Jersey with an opportunity to leverage our vast resources and innovative technologies to allow businesses to engage in new and emerging sectors of the energy industry. Developing New Jersey’s renewable energy resources and industry is critical to our state’s manufacturing and technology future. My Administration will maintain a strong commitment to utilizing energy as industry in our efforts to make our State a home for growth, as well as a national leader in the windpower movement.
Blowing hot air, much? New Jersey just got beat by tiny Rhode Island, which last summer celebrated the first “steel in the water” for the first phase of a massive offshore wind farm.
Other than that one bright spot, with consortium members like New Jersey dragging their heels, it’s no wonder that very little progress has been made in offshore wind energy for the last five years. Though the BOEM lease program has been criticized as a piecemeal approach, we’re thinking it’s part and parcel of President Obama’s super-duck (as compared to lame-duck) strategy of deploying the power of federal agencies when legislators fail to come through in support of clean energy.
Not for nothing but when BOEM first designated the New Jersey Wind Energy Area back in July 2014, the agency’s press release included quotes from its Acting Director, US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and New Jersey State Senator Robert Menendez. Conspicuously absent was New Jersey’s own governor, you-know-who.
On a related note, during the last presidential debate the Governor took the occasion to let everybody know about New Jersey’s solar leadership, but the legislative framework for the state’s solar industry was first laid in 1999, long before he took office.
As for taking the initiative on critical, regional planning matters like the ARC train tunnel and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in addition to the Atlantic wind consortium…eh, not so much.
Image (slightly cropped): via boem.gov.
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