NEPTUNE, NJ – The federal government has approved the largest U.S. offshore wind energy project, which officials say could power hundreds of thousands of New Jersey homes with clean energy and is expected to create more than 3,000 jobs through construction and development.
The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced its approval of the Ocean Wind 1 project’s plan for construction and operation on Wednesday. It is New Jersey’s first offshore wind energy project and will be located approximately 13 nautical miles southeast of Atlantic City.
“Since day one, the Biden-Harris administration has worked to accelerate the offshore wind industry across the country – and today̵[ads1]7;s approval of the Ocean Wind 1 project is another milestone in our efforts to create good-paying union jobs while fighting climate change and run our nation,” US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the announcement marked an “important turning point” in the state’s transition toward carbon-free power.
Developed by Danish power company Ørsted, the Ocean Wind 1 project will generate enough electricity to power up to 500,000 homes with nearly 100 wind turbines off the coast of southern New Jersey.
The project’s approval marks a milestone for the US offshore wind sector, as the country lags behind offshore wind farm operations in Europe and Asia. It is the third commercial-scale offshore wind energy project in the United States approved by the Biden administration.
Ocean Wind 1 joins two other projects, the Vineyard Wind project in Massachusetts and the South Fork Wind project in New York, both of which are under construction. Ørsted plans to have tall structures that will support wind turbines, called monopiles, installed in 2024 and start commercial operation in 2025.
But offshore wind has become a source of controversy in New Jersey, pitting politicians against each other along party lines and even dividing some environmental groups over its potential ocean impacts.
Ocean Wind 1 construction will start in the autumn
State and federal officials are moving forward with approvals. Last week, the New Jersey Legislature voted to allow Ørsted to collect federal tax credits targeting offshore wind farms. The bill awaits the governor’s signature.
Murphy said BOEM’s approval brings New Jersey one step closer to its green energy goals.
“As we continue to cultivate burgeoning new industries while confronting the worsening climate crisis, the state’s first offshore wind project will generate thousands of good-paying union jobs and significant environmental benefits for generations to come,” he said.
Ocean Wind 1’s approval includes a provision for a commercial fisheries compensation program, according to BOEM. The fund will offer reimbursement for lost income, a security fund for navigation equipment, and money for lost or damaged fishing gear.
Federal officials said Ocean Wind 1 must also follow regulations designed to protect endangered and threatened marine animals, including enforcing vessel speed limits and funding various animal monitoring programs.
Construction is expected to start this fall as Ørsted plans to “deliver on the promise of good-paying jobs, local investment and clean energy,” said David Hardy, the company’s CEO for the Americas.
Ørsted plans to start laying electrical transmission cables and building electrical substations on land. Monopiles are also welded, sandblasted and painted at EEW American Offshore Structures’ facility at the Port of Paulsboro across the Delaware River from Philadelphia International Airport.
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Project proponents and critics are divided over marine impacts
Proponents of offshore wind say climate change is a dangerous threat to New Jersey’s marine and coastal ecosystems, as well as millions of residents. Warming oceans will lead to worse storms and more frequent floods; ocean acidification which will kill marine animals; and disturbances in migration routes and feeding and nesting areas.
Warming ocean temperatures could also slow critical circulation currents in the Atlantic Ocean and lead to changes in how heat moves between the equator and the poles, potentially altering climate across parts of the Earth, according to NASA.
Because of these threats, advocates have said reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas through the transition to carbon-free energy is an important part of slowing climate change and protecting critical ecosystems around the world.
But critics of offshore wind say building wind farms will kill marine animals and disrupt the migration of whales and other species. Offshore wind farms will also place thousands of acres of important fishing grounds off limits and destroy the livelihood of the fishing industry, according to critics.
Opponents of the project are not giving up their efforts to stop Ocean Wind 1 from being built.
Earlier this month, three New Jersey organizations — Save LBI, Defend Brigantine Beach and Protest Our Coast NJ — filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court to stop construction of the project.
Ocean Wind 1 will damage “one of the most important marine communities on the East Coast and the core of New Jersey’s $47 billion tourism industry,” said Bruce Afran, an attorney for the three groups.
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Contributor: Associated Press
Amanda Oglesby is an Ocean County native who covers Brick, Barnegat and Lacey townships as well as the surrounding area. She has worked for the press for more than a decade. Reach her at @OglesbyAPP, email@example.com or 732-557-5701.