NJ OKs biggest US wind farm off Jersey Shore; will power 500K homes
Plans for a $1.6 billion wind-energy farm — the largest of its kind in the U.S. — about 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City won the backing of state regulators Friday, in a big leap forward for clean energy.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities chose Ocean Wind, a proposal by Danish energy company Ørsted and supported by PSEG Power, to develop a 1,110-megawatt offshore wind farm. Ocean Wind was selected from among three projects.
Construction of the energy farm, which would produce enough electricity to power more than a half-million New Jersey homes, is expected to start in 2022 or 2023. The first phase would come online in 2024.
The project, the largest offshore wind proposal ever awarded in the United States, is estimated to add $1.46 a month to an average residential electric customer's bill once the project become operational.
"It's an historic day," said Joseph L. Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. "I really am having difficulty grasping the reality of the moment, after so many years, that New Jersey is going to finally be open for business as far as offshore wind is concerned."
State officials said the project will generate $1.17 billion in economic benefits and 15,000 jobs over the life of the project. Among the benefits: the creation of a supply chain in New Jersey to support offshore wind farms.
“Today’s announcement firmly establishes a fast-growing global industry in New Jersey, which will create jobs and supply chain in the state,” said Thomas Brostrøm, chief executive officer of Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind and president of Ørsted North America, in a statement. “Ocean Wind will ensure that the state and its residents not only benefit from clean, renewable power, but that they reap the rewards of being an early player in the offshore wind industry as it grows in the U.S.”
The turbines will have "limited visual impact" from the shoreline, an Ørsted spokeswoman said. The company voluntarily committed to build the turbines no closer than 15 miles offshore after groups expressed concern, she added.
Gov. Phil Murphy has set a goal of 3,500 megawatts for offshore wind generation by 2030 to power as many as 1.5 million New Jersey homes. The state will next solicit bids for two additional 1,200-megawatt offshore wind projects, one in 2020 and another in 2022. Watch a video about those plan at the top of this story.
Earlier this month, Murphy unveiled a plan to convert New Jersey's electricity production to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
New Jersey has a way to go. About 95 percent of electricity generated in New Jersey comes from natural-gas-powered plants and nuclear facilities.
The project was hailed by environmentalists.
"Nationally, this is the largest move forward on offshore wind to date," said Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, in a statement. "These turbines will provide the clean energy engine we need to power our state and finally tap the goldmine of offshore wind potential off the Jersey Shore."
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said it is a "great day for wind."
"Offshore wind will move us forward when it comes to clean energy and green jobs," Tittel said in a statement. "It is one of the most reliable and cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse gases and get renewable energy to scale.”
Ocean Wind was chosen over two other offshore wind developers. They were Atlantic Offshore Wind, a partnership between EDF Renewables and Shell New Energies; and Boardwalk Wind, sponsored by Equinor, which would have built a wind farm off the coast of Long Branch.
In its decision, the board said Ørsted's Ocean Wind had the most benefits to New Jersey, including the lowest cost and risk, and the quickest time to construction. While all of the proposals would cut New Jersey's greenhouse gas emissions, Ocean Wind's environmental protection plan was the most complete and advanced, the BPU said.
"For me their driving force was their many, many years of experience," Fiordaliso said. Ørsted operates the Block Island Wind Farm, three miles southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island.
David P. Willis is an award-winning business reporter and "Press on Your Side" columnist who has written about consumer issues for more than 20 years. Contact him at @dpwillis732, 732-643-4039; firstname.lastname@example.org.