New Jersey utility regulators announced two new offers for offshore wind projects Wednesday, aiming to revive the state’s renewable energy ambitions and pushing future development farther into the New York Bight beyond 40 miles off the beach.
In a special meeting called to award offshore wind renewable energy credits, the state Board of Public Utilities chose the Leading Light project, a venture by Invenergy and energyRE for 2,400 MW capacity, at a price of $112.50 per megawatt-hour. Next was Attentive Energy 2, a 1,342 MW project by TotalEnergies and Corio Generation.
With a future total nameplate rating of 3,772 megawatts, the awards are an effort by New Jersey officials to get the state’s ambitious renewable energy plans back on track after Ørsted’s sudden withdrawal from its Ocean Wind 1 project Oct. 31.
A centerpiece of Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign for offshore wind development, Ocean Wind had already received a generous boost in subsidy from Murphy’s Democratic allies in the state Legislature. Still, Ørsted decided the project was no longer financially viable in the face of rising costs. Ocean Wind became a stunning casualty of wind developers’ retrenchment in the U.S. market, and a major blow to the Murphy administration’s credibility on energy policy.
BPU Commissioner Zenon Christodoulo cited record-breaking temperatures of summer 2023 as one reason why “we can’t kick the can down the road any further” with moving toward renewable energy sources. But he insisted the BPU will hold offshore wind developers to price guarantees in future contracts, with “no hat-in-hand…nickel-and-diming” attempts to sweeten their deals.
Wind developers can expect “fanatical, even tyrannical oversight of your project,” he added.
BPU staff also recommended the Leading Light and Attentive Energy developers for their commitments to using already-sizable New Jersey investments in offshore wind infrastructure: the New Jersey Wind Port development on upper Delaware Bay, and the Paulsboro turbine foundation and tower manufacturing plant upriver on the Delaware. Having those companies backfill what was Ørsted’s role as a major player can “solidify New Jersey’s position as an offshore wind hub” for other projects off the East Coast, according to the BPU staff recommendation.
The Murphy administration has called for New Jersey to be using 100% renewable energy sources by 2035, with an escalating series of executive orders looking for 7,500 MW of wind power by then.
But the New York Bight projects won’t begin to come online until 2031.
Wind energy boosters cheered the BPU votes.
“Today’s awards bring New Jersey one step closer to meeting our clean energy goals,” said Doug O’Malley, executive director of the group Environment New Jersey. “Coming off the hottest year on record, we need to transition away from fossil fuels and build a future where clean, renewable energy powers our state’s economy.”
“Offshore wind will bring huge economic benefits to the state and region, creating jobs and new investment opportunities for manufacturing companies and suppliers to support the necessary infrastructure needed for this new and growing industry, said Anne Reynolds, American Clean Power’s vice president for offshore wind.
“It is also a significant commitment to developing the New Jersey Wind Port which will generate up to $500 million in new economic activity annually for the Garden State. We look forward to working with New Jersey on these important procurements, as well as the previously awarded projects currently under development.”
Compared to the Ørsted and neighbor Atlantic Shore leases, Leading Light and Attentive Energy would be on the distant east side of the north-south separation zone for New York Harbor ship traffic – at 40 miles away, far from sight of Jersey Shore beach resorts.
Visual impacts of turbine construction are a major complaint of local opposition groups. “Move them 35 miles out” is a slogan of the Save Long Beach Island group, whose membership would be looking the Atlantic Shores project if it is built.
But distance won’t allay the opposition.
“Today’s announcement is irresponsible and reckless and puts the ocean at risk,” the group Clean Ocean Action declared after the BPU action. “It rejects the sound call to action issued by Clean Ocean Action in October 2023, that was supported by over 2,747 people, to cancel the Third Offshore Wind Energy Solicitation.”
“New Jersey already has 3,750 megawatts of OSW projects in various states of delay or that have been cancelled. Why commit the public and marine life to pay the additional exorbitant costs with so much unknown?” the group said.
Industry advocates are taking the New Jersey move as one sign that wind development could recover from its recent battering by escalating costs and cancellations.
“The U.S. offshore wind market is entering a new phase of development; today's action capitalizes the state's early investments in a coordinated transmission system, the New Jersey Wind Port, and the EEW monopile facility to accelerate development and position the state at the center of the nation's supply chain,” said Liz Burdock, executive director of the wind power advocacy group Oceantic Network.