ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — Stung by the withdrawal of the world’s largest offshore wind developer from two projects off the coast of New Jersey last fall, state energy regulators on Wednesday approved two new wind farm projects, saying they remain committed to making the state a leader making in the emerging industry.
Both projects chosen by the State Board of Public Utilities would be significantly further offshore than previous projects that drew significant opposition from onshore communities, one of whose concerns was that the turbines would be visible on the horizon from the beach.
The board chose projects called Leading Light Wind and Attentive Energy, which together would generate enough electricity to power 1.8 million homes, according to board chairwoman Christine Guhl-Sadovy. But in statements announcing their applications last year, the companies listed a total of 1.6 million homes, slightly less than the number given by government officials.
Damian Bednarz, general manager of Attentive Energy, said his company’s project would be built 42 miles (67 kilometers) outside Seaside Heights and would not be visible from the coastline.
“We’re past the curvature of the earth,” he said.
The move brings the state’s total of provisionally approved offshore wind projects to three – the same level as before Danish wind developer Orsted scrapped its two proposed wind farms off the state’s southern coast in October.
Tim Sullivan, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, said Wednesday’s approvals came “despite the challenges we experienced last fall.”
“Starting today, New Jersey and Governor (Phil) Murphy are once again at the forefront when it comes to offshore wind energy,” he said.
The projects are in line with Atlantic Shores, a previously approved wind farm.
One of the projects chosen Wednesday is from Chicago-based Invenergy and New York-based energyRE. Called Leading Light Wind, it would be built 40 miles off Long Beach Island and consist of up to 100 turbines, enough to power 1 million homes.
“New Jersey’s selection of an American-led project is a huge step forward for the growth of the domestic offshore wind industry,” the companies said in a statement. “We are reviewing the BPU’s mission statement and look forward to the opportunity to continue our work with the state and our many community partners to deliver a responsibly developed project that advances New Jersey’s clean energy transition .”
The other project, Attentive Energy, would provide enough electricity to power 600,000 homes.
The board said the cost impacts of the new projects would add $6.84 per month to the average residential customer’s bill; $58.73 per month for the average commercial bill and $513.22 per month for the average industrial bill. The higher costs won’t take effect until the projects deliver power to the grid in 2031 and 2032, the board said.
Leading Light is pledging $94 million in direct assistance to 200,000 low-income households to halve the monthly increase resulting from the projects.
Environmental and business groups welcomed the measures.
“Today’s NJBPU award brings the reality of offshore wind energy off the Jersey coast one step closer, and will build a future where wind can power our state’s economy and help us transition away from fossil fuels,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “The wind off the Jersey Shore and especially in the New York Bight remains as strong as ever; it’s time to harness the wind to fight climate change.”
“This is the future and we can fall behind or stay ahead,” said Anjuli Ramos, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “I’m glad we chose the latter.”
Clean Ocean Action, which is virtually alone among the state’s major environmental groups calling for the projects to be canceled, said the state’s action is “irresponsible, reckless and endangers the ocean.”
And Robin Shaffer, president of Protect Our Coast New Jersey, an anti-wind turbine group, called the state’s action “an egregious violation of the BPU’s responsibility to protect New Jersey consumers.”
He said the state is “showing a bias in favor of an industry that is literally in economic collapse. As we saw last year, several major offshore wind companies along the East Coast collapsed due to increasing opposition from grassroots organizations, high inflation, and supply chain issues. Without billions of dollars in tax and tax subsidies, offshore wind projects are simply not viable.”
William Sproule, executive secretary-treasurer of the East Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, looked forward to the jobs the projects will bring to his union’s members.
“Our union is prepared to provide our trained union carpenters, commercial divers, pile drivers and millwrights to build this new energy industry safely and professionally,” he said.
The state plans to request a new round of proposals for wind farms in the first half of this year.
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