Offshore Wind

Officials Give Green Light for Major U.S. Offshore Wind Project

A major offshore wind project off the coast of southern New Jersey has received approval for its construction and operation. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on July 5 gave the go-ahead for the 1,100-MW Ocean Wind 1 installation.

Ocean Wind 1 is the third commercial-scale offshore wind energy project approved for construction by the Biden administration, joining the 800-MW Vineyard Wind development off the coast of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and the 132-MW South Fork Wind installation off the coast of Rhode Island. Vineyard Wind and South Fork already are under construction.

The BOEM, part of the Interior Dept., issued a Record of Decision on Wednesday approving Ocean Wind LLC’s plan to install as many as 98 General Electric (GE) Haliade-X wind turbines, and up to three offshore substations, within its lease area.

Milestone for Project

The decision is a milestone for Ocean Wind 1, which would be the state’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm. The project has faced opposition in New Jersey, including from Republican lawmakers and some residents. Denmark-based energy company Ørsted is developing the project.

“Ocean Wind 1 is on the cusp of making history as construction on New Jersey’s first offshore wind farm is set to begin in a few short months, delivering on the promise of good-paying jobs, local investment and clean energy,” said David Hardy, Group EVP and CEO Americas at Ørsted.

“The announcement of Ocean Wind 1’s Record of Decision today represents a pivotal inflection point not just for Ørsted, but for New Jersey’s nation-leading offshore wind industry as a whole,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in a statement. Monopiles for Ocean Wind 1 are being welded, sandblasted and painted at EEW American Offshore Structures’ facility at the Port of Paulsboro, New Jersey, the first monopile fabrication facility in the U.S.

“Ocean Wind 1 represents another significant step forward for the offshore wind industry in the United States,” said Elizabeth Klein, BOEM director, after Wednesday’s announcement from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “The project’s approval demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to developing clean energy and fighting climate change and is a testament to the state of New Jersey’s leadership in supporting sustainable sources of energy and economic development for coastal communities.”

“Since Day One, the Biden-Harris administration has worked to jump-start the offshore wind industry across the country, and today’s approval for the Ocean Wind 1 project is another milestone in our efforts to create good-paying union jobs while combating climate change and powering our nation,” said Haaland in a news release. “By working closely with state and local leaders, Tribes, ocean users, and other stakeholders, we are moving forward with responsible clean energy development that will benefit communities, while also mitigating potential impacts on the environment or marine life.”

Several Projects in Queue

The BOEM, which facilitates development of renewable energy resources in U.S. waters along the Outer Continental Shelf, has said it expects to review at least 16 construction and operation plans of commercial offshore wind energy facilities by 2025. Those installations would represent more than 27 GW of wind power generation capacity.

Josh Kaplowitz, vice president for Offshore Wind with the American Clean Power Association (ACP), in an emailed statement to POWER said, “Today’s announcement is a major step forward for New Jersey’s offshore wind goals, which will create 10,000 jobs and $4.7 billion in economic impact across the state. Once completed, Ocean Wind 1 will power nearly half a million homes per year with clean, reliable, U.S.-produced wind energy.” The ACP in a report earlier this year said more than 51 GW of generation capacity is in the pipeline for the U.S. offshore wind industry.

Kaplowitz added, “The stamp of approval from BOEM comes after a rigorous environmental and community impact review process, demonstrating the administration’s and the industry’s shared commitment to building clean power in a responsible way.”

Wednesday’s decision, in addition to approving construction, also outlines the monitoring and mitigation measures that Ocean Wind’s developers will undertake to reduce potential impacts to marine life in the area. The ROD also details the restrictions on vessel speed, and sets out the clearance zones, that will be in place during construction.

Ocean Wind officials have said they have committed to at least three fisheries mitigation programs, including direct compensation for reimbursement of lost revenues, a navigational safety fund for navigation equipment upgrades, and a reimbursement program for lost or damaged commercial fishing gear.

Approval Comes Despite Opposition

Allison McLeod, senior policy director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, in a statement said, “The [approval] represents a critical step toward harnessing clean, renewable offshore wind to power New Jersey’s homes and businesses.”

Opposition to Ocean Wind 1 has been centered in Cape May County in New Jersey, where some residents have said the wind turbines will spoil their ocean views. A group called Protect Our Coast NJ has expressed concern about the impact to marine life, and also the possible negative effect the project could have on tourism. County officials already have moved to challenge the federal government’s decision to approve the project, and are looking at legal action against the permits issued to the project by the New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection.

State lawmakers recently approved a bill to let Ørsted keep federal tax credits for the project, saying the company needed the support due to continued economic hardships related to inflation and the coronavirus pandemic.

Ørsted on Wednesday said the BOEM approval keeps Ocean Wind 1 on track to begin onshore construction this fall, with the bulk of offshore construction expected next year. Company officials have said they expect commercial operation will begin in 2025.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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