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New Jersey OKs two new offshore wind farms that would be farther from shore and beachgoers' view

New Jersey utility regulators have given preliminary approval to two new wind farms off the state's coast

Wayne Parry
Wednesday 24 January 2024 18:01 GMT

Stung by the pullout of the world's largest offshore wind developer from two projects off the New Jersey coast last fall, state energy regulators on Wednesday approved two new wind farm projects, saying they remain committed to making the state a leader in the nascent industry.

Both the projects chosen by the state Board of Public Utilities would be considerably farther offshore than earlier projects that generated 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, the board's president, Christine Guhl-Sadovy said. But in statements announcing their applications last year, the companies gave a combined total of 1.6 million homes, slightly less than the number given by state officials.

Damian Bednarz, managing director of Attentive Energy, said his company's project would be built 42 miles (67 kilometers) off Seaside Heights and would not be visible from the shoreline.

“We are over the curvature of the Earth,” he said.

The action brings the state's total of preliminarily approved offshore wind projects to three — the same level it was at before Danish wind developer Orsted scrapped its two wind farms proposed for 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.”

“As of today, New Jersey and Gov. (Phil) Murphy are back on our front foot in terms of offshore wind,” he said.

The projects join 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 (64 kilometers) off Long Beach Island and would consist of up to 100 turbines, enough to power 1 million homes.

“New Jersey’s selection of an American-led project is a tremendous step forward for the growth of the domestic offshore wind industry,” the companies said in a statement. “We are reviewing the order from the BPU 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 a month to the average residential customer's bill; $58.73 a month to the average commercial bill and $513.22 a month to the average industrial bill. The higher charges would not take effect until the projects are providing power to the electrical grid, in 2031 and 2032, the board said.

Leading Light promises $94 million in direct assistance to 200,000 low-income households to cut the monthly increase due to the projects in half.

Environmental and business groups hailed the moves.

“Today’s NJBPU award brings the reality of offshore wind off the Jersey Shore one step closer, and it will build a future where wind can power our state’s economy and help us to transition off 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 either fall behind or stay ahead,” said Anjuli Ramos, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "I’m happy we’ve chosen the latter.”

Clean Ocean Action, which is virtually alone among the state's major environmental groups in calling for the projects to be canceled, said the state's action “is irresponsible and reckless, and puts the ocean at risk.”

“The current push for offshore wind is an unprecedented invasion and massive experiment on the ocean, marine ecosystem, thousands of livelihoods, and the quiet seaside culture that millions enjoy from around the world,” the group said in a statement.

William Sproule, executive secretary-treasurer of the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, looked forward to the jobs the projects will provide to his union's members.

“Our union is prepared to supply 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 solicit another round of wind farm proposals in the first half of this year.


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