New governor set to kick-start NJ offshore wind energy development

New Jersey looks set to expand its use of renewable energy – offshore wind in particular – under new Democratic governor Phil Murphy, who was sworn into office on January 16.

The state is populous bur struggles with high electricity prices. Previous governor, Republican Chris Christie, had been criticised by renewables advocates as dragging his feet on the state’s offshore build-out.

During his campaign for office, Murphy said he would seek a target of 3.5 GW offshore capacity by 2030, the most ambitious such target in the country. He has also vowed to seek a 100% clean-energy renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by 2050.

Already, state lawmakers re-introduced a bill last week with a goal of 3.5GW of offshore wind. Former state Governor Richard Codey, a Democrat, introduced Bill 811, which has been sent to committee for review. If enacted, it would also require the creation of an offshore wind energy certificate program within 180 days.

The state has good offshore wind potential, and in 2015 the Interior Department auctioned off 344,000 acres for wind off the coast. Danish developer Ørsted, a leader in the offshore wind sector in Europe, is surveying a site off New Jersey for a 1-GW project named Ocean Wind. Company officials say that the wind project could come online between 2020 and 2025.

Meanwhile, US Wind, a subsidiary of Italy’s Renexia, is planning two major projects, exceeding 1 GW.

Even so, a US$220 million demonstration project proposed by Fishermen’s Energy, and which was to be sited off Atlantic City, struggled to get support from local regulators and eventually lost federal support – even though the state’s 2010 Offshore Wind Economic Development Act directed officials to launch an ‘offshore wind renewable energy credit programme’ and support at least 1.1 GW of offshore wind capacity.

Yet while ex-governor Christie signed off on the landmark law in 2010, he also appointed most of the regulators who stymied the sector.

Following a period of prolonged disappointment, hopes for Murphy are high. He has a “really good handle on this [offshore wind] industry, not only from an economic perspective but from an environmental one as well,” Paul Rich, of Deepwater Wind, told the Washington Post. “I think he’s poised to be bold where others have gotten cold feet.”

Ørsted North American president Thomas Brostrom added: “We are hopeful that a Murphy administration will continue to move New Jersey forward in the development of a robust offshore wind industry.”

This NewsBase commentary is from our REM publication. To sign up for your free trial, click this link: