New Jersey has just laid claim to the biggest-ever combined offshore wind power award in the whole USA to date. That’s quite a feat for the Garden State, which is one of the very smallest states in the country and is best known as the site of Jersey tomatoes, insanely popular television shows, and an endless stream of weird goings-on. For that matter, not a single wind turbine has yet to find its way off the famous Jersey Shore. So, what’s all that about?
In Offshore Wind, Size Doesn’t Matter
New Jersey clocks in at a teeny, tiny #46 on the list of US states when measured by square miles of land, but when the topic turns to offshore wind it’s all about location, location, location. As one of the states lining the Atlantic coast, New Jersey is entitled to federal offshore wind lease areas administered by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
That’s just part of the advantage. Like many other Atlantic coast states, New Jersey also gets the win-win-win advantages of relatively high wind resources, low construction costs, and dense coastal populations humming with commercial activity. Access to existing ports and transportation networks is another win.
Contrast that with the northern reaches of the Atlantic coast, where low population and coastal factors require a more creative approach. The states lining the Gulf of Mexico, which briefly caught fire last week, are at a disadvantage due to relatively low wind speeds, and offshore activity is just barely beginning to stir in that region. The Pacific coast is ripe for development, but its deep waters require floating wind turbine technology, which is currently more expensive than conventional fixed-platform construction.
Biggest Ever Offshore Wind Award In The US
New Jersey was not among the first cohort of states to jump into the offshore wind pool when activity began to stir during the Obama administration. The distinction of first steel-in-the-water goes to an even tinier state, Rhode Island, which comes in dead last in terms of size but in which the political winds were more favorable than in New Jersey and elsewhere at the time.
The Obama administration tried to sweeten the offshore wind pot in New Jersey with millions in Energy Department funding for a new wind farm featuring innovative turbine construction technology, but the administration of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did not appear eager to grab the bait. The project was eventually abandoned, leaving the field clear for Rhode Island to skip ahead.
Well, that was then. Current Governor Phil Murphy has set a goal of 100% clean power for New Jersey by 2050 (more on that in a second). The newly announced offshore wind farm awards represent a significant part of the plan. They total a combined 2,658 megawatts in capacity, which is a big chunk of the Murphy administration’s plans for 7,500 megawatts in offshore wind by 2035.
Those plans also include exercising an outsized influence on wind lease areas controlled by other coastal states. Work is already under way on the New Jersey Wind Port on the Delaware River, where a new monopile manufacturing facility will supply offshore wind farms in New Jersey, and eventually elsewhere.
The new awardees have also committed to setting up shop at the Wind Port for manufacturing turbine nacelles, which could also provide a supply chain for states once the New Jersey wind farms are complete.
“Today’s award, which is the nation’s largest combined award to date, further solidifies New Jersey as an offshore wind supply chain hub and leader in the offshore wind industry in the United States,” Murphy emphasized.
Big Oil Jumps On Big Wind Bandwagon
In recent years, the theme of the day has been the increasing eagerness of some legacy oil and gas stakeholders to invest in renewable energy, so it’s no surprise to see Ørsted and a branch of Shell front and center in New Jersey’s offshore wind plans.
Ørsted was formerly known as Danish Oil and Gas. It still has a toe in the fossil energy field but is no longer an oil or gas producer. Ørsted put New Jersey on the offshore wind map in 2019, when the state’s Board of Public Utilities greenlighted the 1,100 MW Ocean Wind project, off the coast of Atlantic City.
At the time, Ocean Wind was the biggest single offshore wind project in the US. Ørsted’s new award, for the so-named Ocean Wind II project, comes in even bigger at 1,510 megawatts.
The other award is also a record-breaker. That one goes to the Atlantic Shores project, which is a 1,510 megawatt wind farm fanning out from Long Beach Island. Shell New Energies US and EDF Renewables have paired up for that project.
What About Offshore Wind & Green Hydrogen?
Of course, no mention of offshore wind is complete without a mention of green hydrogen. The Atlantic Shores project includes a green hydrogen element in the works, which our friends over at offshorewindbiz.com sized up last December.
Atlantic Wind has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the company South Jersey Industries, which will lend its gas-blending knowledge base and infrastructure to run a 5-10 megawatt green hydrogen pilot project, using excess electricity generated by the wind farm.
The idea behind the Atlantic Shores green hydrogen project is to help decarbonize heavy industry. Considering the gas-blending angle, one near-term scenario would be to lighten the carbon load of gas turbines and other thermal operations.
Movement is already afoot in that direction among other stakeholders. Mitsubishi, for example, has introduced a new turbine that runs on a blend of green hydrogen and natural gas, and which can step up to 100% green hydrogen as more supply becomes available.
Fans of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles could also get a piece of the action. Fuel cell passenger cars are lagging behind their battery-powered cousins for a share of the zero emission mobility market, but stakeholders in the area of long haul trucks, aircraft, locomotives, and other heavy-duty applications have picked up the torch.
Do We Have To Wait Until 2050?
As for that goal of 100% clean energy by 2050, it sure looks like the deadline will have to be moved up, what with the record-setting heat, drought, extreme weather, and all that other stuff climate scientists predicted happening right now.
Too bad some oil and gas stakeholders spent so much time, money, and energy on feeding the lobby against clean power when they could have poured more juice into renewable energy research.
Oh well, water under the bridge. If Atlantic Shores’ plans for workforce development bear fruit, perhaps New Jersey will get to that 100% goal sooner rather than later.
As part of its bid, Atlantic Shores has committed to cultivating the up-and-coming generation of planet savers through Rutgers University, Rowan College, which are part of the state’s renowned public university system.
“The series of investments comes in advance of an expected boom in the offshore wind industry post-COVID, helping make New Jersey a leading incubator center for clean energy innovations as the offshore wind supply chain for the Atlantic seaboard looks to gravitate here and hire locally,” Atlantic Shores enthused in a press release last December.
Other areas of collaboration include the Barnegat Bay Partnership and the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City, as well as training partnerships with manufacturers and suppliers. Atlantic shores also has plans in the work for a community outreach and education center on the Atlantic City campus of Stockton College, which is another public college.
Also included are STEM scholarships aimed at underserved communities and an assist for clean energy startups through the Minority & Women Owned Business Incubator at the Rutgers University EcoComplex in Bordentown.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: New Jersey offshore wind lease areas via US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.