The US offshore wind industry suffered one blow after another last year, including the cancellation of two projects totaling 2.2 gigawatts planned for the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of New Jersey. That made for some cheering among offshore wind opponents, but perhaps they should have kept their pom-poms dry. Earlier today the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved two new offshore projects that will bring more than 3.7 gigawatts to the Garden State.
Two More Massive Offshore Wind Projects For New Jersey
The Asbury Park Press had the scoop as of 12:06 this afternoon so hat tip to them. The Board of Public Utilities posted a press release online shortly after that.
One of the approvals went to Leading Light Wind, which joins the US renewable energy developers Invenergy and energyRE in a 2,400-megawatt project to be located in the New York Bight. A bight refers to an angle in the shoreline, which in this case is the large corner formed by the coasts of Long Island and New Jersey.
As for why it’s not called the Long Island-New Jersey Bight, take it up with the mapmakers. The New York Bight is rich territory for offshore wind development because it checks off all the boxes including relatively shallow waters that enable conventional fixed-platform construction as well as proximity to port facilities and high-population, energy-hungry coastal cities.
The other project approved for New Jersey this morning is Attentive Energy Two, a sister project to New York’s Attentive Energy One. Both of the Attentive projects are partnerships between the French energy firm TotalEnergies and the UK offshore wind developer Corio Generation, for a combined capacity of 3,000 megawatts.
Attentive Energy Two is expected to add up to 1, 342 megawatts of offshore wind to New Jersey’s renewable energy portfolio.
About-Face For The NJ BPU
Unlike in years past, the current iteration of the New Jersey BPU is not shy about supporting the offshore wind industry in the Garden State
“Combined, the projects will bring $6.8 billion in economic benefits to New Jersey and provide enough domestically produced energy to power 1.8 million homes,” BPU explained in its press release.
“Today’s award further cements New Jersey’s commitment to building a strong offshore wind industry,” chipped in Christine Guhl-Sadovy, BPU president.
“This portfolio of projects collectively represents what offshore wind offers – clean energy that will yield environmental benefits for generations to come, economic benefits to boost New Jersey’s economy for decades, and thousands of good-paying, family-sustaining jobs,” she added.
The new approvals vindicate New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. His advocacy for the offshore industry includes support for constructing the new New Jersey Wind Port in Paulsboro, which launched in 2021, along with support for new tax legislation benefiting the Danish energy firm Ørsted last summer. That was not enough to stop Ørsted from cancelling its Ocean Wind 1 and 2 projects last fall, but the two new projects demonstrate that investors are still eyeballing opportunities in the New Jersey wind market.
New Jersey’s On-Again, Off-Again Offshore Wind Industry
Ørsted’s cancellation was not the first time the state had high hopes for kick-starting a home grown wind industry, only to see it dashed upon the rocks of partisan policy-making.
New Jersey had a chance to be the first US state to have an offshore wind farm in its pocket during the tenure of former Governor Chris Christie (this Chris Christie), when the US Department of Energy provided a $47 million grant to the New Jersey firm Fisherman’s Energy to help make it happen.
However, funding for the six-turbine, 24-megawatt project was withdrawn in 2017, with Christie’s policy makers on the BPU reportedly playing a role.
“In 2010, during his first term, Christie signed a landmark wind energy law designed to encourage development of the renewable resource off the state’s gusty shore,” the Washington Post reported back in 2017. “But the public utility board controlled by Christie appointees never fully implemented a plan meant to incentivize that development.“
That’s not much of a surprise. Slow-walking the wind project down to the nub was not the only Christie energy policy aimed at sinking renewables. “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),” CleanTechnica observed back in 2018.
The Gloves Are Off
Christie was term-limited out of office in 2018, but other wind energy foes have risen to take his place. Republican U.S. Representative Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey Congressional District 2, for example, shot off a letter to Governor Murphy earlier this week, in which he credited citizen pushback for the cancellation of the two Ørsted projects.
Ørsted has stated otherwise, citing supply chain issues and inflation among the economic headwinds that motivated it to focus on other aspects of its vast portfolio, but that detail was left on the cutting room floor.
“Despite these clear examples of public dissent, it has come to my attention that the New Jersey Public Board of Utilities (NJBPU) is holding a ‘special meeting’ with the anticipated agenda of approving at least one new OSW [offshore wind] project off the coast of New Jersey. This is unacceptable and I urge you to drop your unrealistic Green New Deal agenda before you cause irreversible damage to our state’s economy, thriving ocean-based industries, and delicate marine ecosystems,” Van Drew wrote.
“The state’s relentless push for OSW, despite a significant lack of transparent and thorough assessments on the impact OSW will have on local communities and the environment, continues to be a major concern for the citizens of New Jersey,” he continued.
Apparently offshore wind is also a major concern for groups affiliated with fossil energy industries.
Last April, NJ.com described how a low profile but reportedly influential right wing think tank called the Caesar Rodney Institute became part of an organized attempt to blame wind turbines with an unusual number of whale deaths in New Jersey last year.
“Records show the advocacy group, supported in part by dark money contributions from a petroleum trade group and headed by a climate crisis denier, has helped fund websites with environmental-sounding names such as Protect Our Coast, in an effort to link the deaths of the whales to offshore wind generation to stir up public opposition to the industry,” NJ.com reported.
The organization Energy and Policy Institute is also following the money. Last October they reported that a “Republican group that paid for anti-offshore wind power ads targeting Democrats ahead of New Jersey’s November 7 state legislative elections raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fossil fuel industry earlier this year.”
As for the ginned-up outrage over dead whales washing up on the beaches of New Jersey , it should be pointed out that there are no wind turbines in the New York Bight as yet. There is no “steel in the water,” as the saying goes. However, there are plenty of boats and fishing gear in the water, both of which are known to cause whales to die.
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Photo: Offshore wind turbines are coming to New Jersey (courtesy of energyRE).
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