It’s time to ‘go big’ on offshore wind, boosters say

Source: By Tom Johnson, NJSpotlight • Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2021

New report says Atlantic coast can provide more than enough power as New Jersey looks to invest in wind

Credit: (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File). File photo: Wind turbines from the Deepwater Wind project off Block Island, Rhode Island

No wind turbines are producing power off the New Jersey coast, but enough potential wind capacity exists out there to meet virtually all of the state’s electrical demand, according to a new report.

In fact, offshore wind has the capacity to power the country with clean energy, the report by the Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group argues. In the Atlantic region alone — stretching from Maine to Florida — there is enough wind potential to produce four times the electricity those states used in 2019, the analysis says.

“This incredible resource is relatively untapped, but we have a chance to take advantage of it and build a resilient green future for New Jerseyans,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of the Research & Policy center. “Now is the time to go big on offshore wind.’’

The Murphy administration embraces that goal, making development of offshore-wind farms along the New Jersey coast a top priority for achieving its goal of transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2050 and sharply reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Great megawatt expectations

To that end, it has set a target of having 7,500 megawatts of offshore-wind capacity by 2035. Although it has not yet built any offshore-wind farms, New Jersey has the largest permitted project moving forward, the Ocean Wind 1,100-megawatt initiative about 16 miles off Atlantic City. The state expects to approve up to 2,400 megawatts of new projects sometime this June.

Only two small offshore-wind farms are operational along the Eastern Seaboard — the Block Island Wind Farm, a 30-megawatt project off Rhode Island, and a pilot 12-megawatt project, the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind facility.

Across the nation, there are 34 proposals for offshore-wind development, according to the report.

New Jersey has the most offshore-wind projects in the development pipeline, O’Malley said. The Northeast is especially suited for offshore wind, the report says, by virtue of having strong, consistent wind and a wide, shallow continental shelf, making deployment of offshore wind relatively straightforward using existing technology.

Cutting the cost of wind

The report projects the United States is set to see huge growth in offshore wind, which will help the industry mature and continue to drive down costs, one of the biggest concerns among critics of the technology.

Those falling costs are being driven by rapid advances in the technology, the report indicates. For instance, the average capacity of turbines today is more than 12 times larger than that of the turbines in the first offshore-wind farm in 1991, the report says.

“With costs falling, supply chains building, and more urgency than ever regarding the changes in our climate, now is the time for offshore wind,’’ said Kris Ohleth, executive director of the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind.

Even so, the report affirms that taking advantage of those activities will require support from policymakers and regulatory agencies at all levels.

The development of offshore wind could be hastened by providing more market certainty, as Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virginia have done by setting enforceable targets for offshore-wind deployment, according to the report.

Tax credits?

The report also recommends an increase and extension of tax credits for offshore wind and urged planning begin for offshore-wind development, including for transmission infrastructure. In New Jersey, such planning is already underway at the state Board of Public Utilities.

One thing the report does not recommend is developing the full technical capacity of offshore wind. It notes, however, the sheer size of the resource illustrates the critical contribution that offshore wind can make toward an energy system powered by 100% renewable energy.

“This report clearly lays out the potential for New Jersey to become a national leader in offshore wind power and recommends effective and responsible policies that are necessary to develop this new energy sector quickly,’’ said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, the chair of the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee.