New Jersey’s Offshore Wind Industry Might Not Be Dead After All

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If you can’t make the connection between New Jersey and offshore wind farms, there’s a good reason for that. A few years ago, New Jersey was on track to lead the nation’s offshore wind industry with a multi-million dollar assist from the US Department of Energy, thanks to its location on the wind-rich Atlantic coast. Unfortunately, the state’s former governor Chris Christie gummed up the works. New Jerseyans were left high and dry while tiny Rhode Island sailed into US renewable energy history with the nation’s first commercial offshore wind farm.

Rhode Island? Really!? Well, looks like it’s better late than never for New Jersey. With a new wind-friendly governor in Trenton, the state suddenly  has another shot at penetrating the hot Atlantic coast offshore wind market.

New Jersey Shoots At Offshore Wind, Misses

Back in 2010, New Jersey lawmakers positioned the state to take advantage of its location on the wind-rich US Atlantic coast, but they didn’t account for Governor Christie.

In terms of energy policy, Christie made clear his allegiance to the Koch brothers agenda for fossil fuels. He unilaterally killed the $9 billion ARC mass transit project, pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, dropped the ball on a multi-state electric vehicle initiative, dragged his feet on a new multi-state consortium to develop Atlantic coast offshore wind, and so on and so forth (it’s a long list).

Where were we? Oh right, offshore wind. Christie also lollygagged on the state’s renewable energy standard for wind. Even so, a company called Fishermen’s Energy kept plugging away at its plans for a wind farm, which go back as far as 2005.

For a while there it looked like things were finally starting to pop for Fishermen’s. In 2015, the company was one of only three offshore wind firms nationwide to share in a $141 million Energy Department funding initiative for new technology aimed at driving down the cost of offshore wind.

Unfortunately, Christie had already dropped a big hint about his interest in promoting New Jersey’s offshore wind industry in 2014, when he failed to show up in an Interior Department press release announcing an offshore lease area for New Jersey worth 3,400 megawatts of clean power. Key deadlines for Fishermen’s Energy Department funding passed while the Christie administration twiddled its thumbs. The Energy Department was finally forced to pull the plug on funding for the six-turbine farm in 2016.

Zombie Offshore Wind Turbines Rise From The Dead

Well, that was then. This year New Jersey has a new wind-friendly governor, Phil Murphy, and barely weeks into his term word began circulating that Fishermen’s Energy could be back in business.

Our friends over at The SandPaper seem to have gotten the scoop back on February 28, and this week the Press of Atlantic City has the latest news:

A bill to restart the Fishermen’s Energy wind farm project for the ocean off Atlantic City passed an Assembly committee Thursday and now moves to the full Assembly.

It would require the state Board of Public Utilities to open a 90-day period for the submission of an amended application for a wind energy project in state waters offshore of Atlantic City.

Yay. The Press notes that the bill, A-2485, does not mention Fishermen’s Energy by name, but the bill is tailored to the company’s situation.

The Press also notes that former governor Christie had vetoed two similar bills during his tenure, but since he doesn’t have any more say in the matter, things could turn out differently this time around.

If all goes according to plan, construction could start as early as this fall. Apparently Fishermen’s Energy did not give up the ghost after last year’s disappointment, and it has all the necessary permits and relationships in place and ready to roll.

In another good sign, one of Governor Murphy’s first acts was an executive order kick-starting New Jersey’s Offshore Wind Economic Development Act. That’s the one Christie had been sitting on since 2010. Here’s the Press with the lowdown:

The order committed the state to quickly generate 1,100 megawatts annually of offshore wind energy and 3,500 megawatts of generation by the year 2030 — enough to power 1.5 million homes, according to Murphy.

More Good News For US Offshore Wind Farms

Here’s another interesting thing. Despite President* Trump’s coal-friendly rhetoric, his Department of Energy has been pushing forward with some mighty powerful renewable energy initiatives.

That includes wind energy, which is not surprising in consideration of the agency’s chief, Rick Perry. As a former Texas governor, Perry left behind a horrible legacy on women’s health issues but he was a strong promoter of the state’s wind industry, and look where Texas is now on that.

All during Trump’s first year in office, Perry did not miss an opportunity to jab the Commander-in-Chief over wind energy. He finished off the with the announcement of a new Offshore Wind Energy Consortium aimed at developing cutting edge new turbines and other fancy stuff, and he jumped into 2018 with an Energy Department article touting all the great things his agency is doing to help grow the US offshore wind industry.

Looking at you, New Jersey.

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*As of this writing.

Photo: via Fishermen’s Energy.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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