N.J. puts out biggest call yet for offshore wind proposals

Source: David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2018

New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU) opened the state’s coasts to a fresh crop of offshore wind projects yesterday, unanimously approving an order to formally request applications from developers.

The window for applications, which opens immediately and lasts until late December, is aimed at attracting proposals to build 1,100 megawatts’ worth of turbines — so far, the nation’s biggest single solicitation.

It follows a call from Gov. Phil Murphy (D) to schedule two more rounds during the coming years that would get the state to its 2030 goal of 3,500 MW.

The state is still working through the shape of the subsidies that will be available to developers of offshore turbines. The BPU is currently taking public comment on a rule it proposed in July.

But the size of the solicitation appeared to suggest confidence in the cost of offshore wind power, said Warren Leon, executive director of the Clean Energy States Alliance, which advises public officials.

“Initially, some states might have been hesitant to do something too large early on [in the industry’s development], because they were worried that they would have to pay too much of a premium,” Leon said.

But bids for solicitations in Massachusetts and elsewhere may have been cheap enough to persuade New Jersey — and other states — to put out bigger solicitations.

“Those states may feel like, ‘Look, we can do something big, and this industry is moving to the point that even at these early stages we can get good prices,'” said Leon.

“It suggests there’ll be an awful lot of offshore wind development,” he said. “It suggests, you know, we’re building a major industry here.”

Environmentalists have spent the past decade trying to make the business case for turbines on the Atlantic Coast. A March report by Environment America said offshore wind could supply four times the amount of electricity used by the region. And clean-energy coalition Environmental Entrepreneurs recently estimated that a single, average-sized offshore farm would create about 170 long-term jobs — and over 4,000 short-term ones — as well as $31 million in economic benefits to New Jersey.

The BPU is also set to decide in October whether to approve immediate construction on a much smaller wind farm near Atlantic City that advocates say could give the state’s building trades unions some experience doing offshore work. Developers say it could begin producing power by 2021.