New Jersey is expected to approve up to 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind energy at a June 24 meeting of the state's Board of Public Utilities, which would set the stage for hundreds of wind turbines off the Garden State coast in coming years.
The approval would add to the 1,100 megawatts already given the green light by New Jersey's BPU, and keep the state on pace for Gov. Phil Murphy's aggressive goal of 7,500 megawatts by 2035. That's enough to power half of the state's 1.5 million homes.
The first award in 2019 went to Ørsted and its Ocean Wind 1 project, which is planning 92 turbines off Cape May and southern New Jersey to produce the 1,100 megawatts. The wind farm is currently second in the federal government's queue of offshore wind projects under review following the Biden administration's approval in May of the Vineyard farm off Massachusetts. Ocean Wind's federal approval is expected by June 2023.
New Jersey's current evaluation of bids is a two-horse race that includes Ørsted and it's Ocean Wind 2 bid, and a developer called Atlantic Shores, which owns a 183,000-acre lease area off the coast of Atlantic City and Long Beach Island. Atlantic Shores is a joint venture between Shell New Energies US and EDF Renewables North America.
Neither of the project developers have submitted a bid for the full 2,400 megawatts, according to spokespeople with Ørsted and Atlantic Shores. That leaves open the possibility that one or both of the companies could win the right to build wind farms through the latest round of bids.
Ørsted's Ocean Wind 2 proposal up for consideration by the BPU would provide an additional 1,200 megawatts of wind energy, a spokesman for the company said.
Atlantic Shores, meanwhile, has submitted a few proposals ranging in size, with the largest proposal to provide 2,300 megawatts of energy, according to a spokesperson for the company.
The bids are not public, and both companies declined to provide more specifics about their proposals. Atlantic Shores commercial director Joris Veldhoven said in a statement that the developer is looking forward to the BPU's announcement at their meeting later this month.
"Through our ongoing development efforts since 2018 we have connected directly with the communities our project would power, as well as key stakeholders such as commercial and recreational fishermen, union workers, leading academic institutions and more," Veldhoven said. "We are proud that our project would deliver renewable energy to up to a million homes, bring millions of dollars in investments to local workers and leading academic institutions, enable brand-new New Jersey-based offshore wind facilities and ensure that New Jersey will become the national leader in the green economy."
Offshore Wind Farms: The Lease Areas and Developers
Seventeen federally leased areas are off the coasts of eight U.S. states. Click on each lease site to see how many turbines are expected or estimated, to which developer they belong and how much power will be generated. Turbine totals are either based on developers’ proposals or estimated using power generated by the largest turbine currently on the market.
Data: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
Nina Lin / NBC
The BPU has not said whether it will approve one or both of the companies for new projects, but an official said Friday it does "still anticipate" issuing an award this month.
One of New Jersey's top environmental advocates said that all but assures that the award will be announced at the board's second and final meeting of the month.
"It will be June 24," Environment New Jersey executive director Doug O'Malley said. "It'll be interesting to see how will the bids be decided. Ørsted got the full award last time, and the board says it’s going to go bigger this time. There are only two bids in front of them and hopefully the board awards the full 2,400, so New Jersey stays nation-leading."
Other states from North Carolina to Massachusetts are also weighing offshore projects that would power hundreds of thousands of homes. Up to 17 projects currently proposed or in consideration off the East Coast call for more than 1,500 of the Eiffel Tower-sized turbines.
Rising Heights of Offshore Wind Turbines
Wind turbines in the ocean are much bigger than the on-land versions that dominate the landscape in places like the American Midwest. Here is how the largest turbine on the market, General Electric's 12MW Haliede X, compares in size to some well-known structures.
Credit: Nelson Hsu/NBC
Offshore wind turbines continue to get larger and larger in size as scientists and companies behind the projects say that the technology is proving that bigger means more efficient. A 12-megawatt turbine, the largest currently on the market and planned for some upcoming American developments, can power a single-family home for two days with just a single rotation of its blades.
Proponents of offshore wind farms say they are needed to replace dirtier power sources like coal and gas, but commercial fishermen in New Jersey, New England and elsewhere say thousands of turbines in the Mid-Atlantic threaten their livelihood.
It also remains unclear the extent to which thousands of turbines would have on the stratification process of the Mid-Atlantic "Cold Pool," a natural process that affects ocean temperatures and wildlife.
Atlantic Shores announced this week that it will fund a $500,000 study of how offshore wind farms and climate change will affect surf clams in the Mid-Atlantic. The surf clam industry is one of the most valuable American fisheries.