Gov. Phil Murphy last week announced a new detail in New Jersey’s work toward his goal of 7.5 gigawatts of offshore wind energy production — another one that will benefit the South Jersey region.
The governor said the first staging port for finishing assembly of wind turbines and shipping them to their installation a dozen miles off Atlantic City will be on the Delaware River in Salem County. The 30-acre site is adjacent to the state’s three nuclear generating stations in Lower Alloways Creek Township.
Denmark-based Ørsted, which was chosen a year ago to build the 1.1 gigawatt field of 90 wind turbines 853 feet tall, already has selected the Lacey Township site of the former Oyster Creek nuclear plant to bring much of the generated electricity ashore. One or two additional locations may be chosen.
The state expects the Salem staging port to employ 1,500. Murphy said another 25 acres there will be made available to try to lure manufacturers of turbine parts to the port. That still would leave 160 acres for future development.
Companies and N.J. taxpayers will split the $400 million estimated cost of the staging port.
Offshore wind generation has developed to the point of potentially producing electricity for less than the cost of a natural gas fired generator. The goal of 7.5 gigawatts (billions of watts) of wind energy by 2035 could power half the state’s homes with clean, emissions-free energy.
The key question is attaining that goal with the lowest electricity prices for consumers and businesses, and with only as many state-provided incentives and subsidies as are needed.
Republicans already have criticized Murphy for the state’s $200 million share of the staging port costs, considering its pandemic-worsened financial crisis.
The estimate last year that residential electric bills would increase just $1.46 a month was reassuring. Ørsted’s planned use of the latest, biggest and most efficient turbine — the GE Haliade-X — also looks promising. So far so good.
But although Murphy said the staging port would make New Jersey “able to be the focal point for the industry in this part of the country,” the action probably will be limited to the state’s projects.
Massachusetts already created a 28-acre staging port in New Bedford. Ørsted will deploy 10 of the Haliade-X turbines in Maryland ahead of the project off Atlantic City. New York has a goal of 9 gigawatts of offshore wind power.
Unfortunately state officials want to do their own deals to influence where the credit and benefits go for large projects.
Two years ago we urged them to take a regional approach to offshore wind development to lower costs for ratepayers. But as Ørsted CEO Henrik Paulsen has said, governments always insist “on everything sort of being local. … It’s an equation that’s very difficult to solve without the whole technology becoming much more expensive.”
Ensuring New Jersey’s clean energy future isn’t far more expensive than it needs to be will require diligent oversight of the process by the public, the media and political rivals. Politicians want to do big green deals in the worst way, and that’s the way residents might get them if they don’t pay attention.