The offshore wind is coming. It is the fulfillment of Murphy’s legacy. | Moran

PAULSBORO – The dream of establishing New Jersey as a national leader in offshore wind energy and capturing the good jobs that come with it is no longer a dream.

Work has started here in southern Jersey where teams of hard hats are constructing buildings and fortifying specialized harbors designed for the task. The companies that have built the big wind farms in Europe have already invested huge sums, more than in any other state, and the first of these steel behemoths is expected to rise off Atlantic City in about three years.

The scale of this effort is transformative, both for the fight against the climate and for the economic boom it promises for this remote part of southern Jersey, one of the poorest corners of the state.

This is a legacy for Gov. Phil Murphy, who set a clear course during his first months in office, and has not wavered since, despite the risk of investing around $ 1.5 billion to set the stage, once it’s done. He worked hand-in-hand with Senate Speaker Steve Sweeney, the pioneer of that effort, even as the two fought furiously over other issues.

This, gentlemen, is one of those rare times when the New Jersey government deserves full-blown praise. To consider:

Wind farms will start producing juice in about three years, and by 2030 they are expected to meet a quarter of the state’s electricity needs, displacing the equivalent of half a dozen large coal-fired power plants. The plan is to double that figure by 2035. We could soon be driving electric cars loaded with green energy.

“New Jersey is currently the country’s leader in offshore wind,” said Doug O’Malley of Environment New Jersey. “We are talking about hundreds of wind turbines, in line with what European wind farms look like.”

These turbines are the tall, taller than the Washington Monument – twice the size if you count the blades – and about as heavy as a 747 jet. We’ve signed more contracts to make it happen than any other state.

We’re also ahead of jobs, mainly thanks to the state’s aggressive investment in two new ports along the Delaware River, both designed specifically for this mission, and both in ideal locations.

These are not ordinary ports. They require concrete platforms several feet thick and reinforced with steel, designed to support much more weight than the conventional ports of Elizabeth or Brooklyn. And they both have enough space nearby to put the parts together and load them onto ships.

In Paulsboro, a German company that is one of the world leaders in wind power, the EEW group, has invested $ 300 million to build a campus where it will import giant steel plates seven inches thick, then fold them into curved rings, and weld them together to make monopiles that will extend from the ocean floor to the surface.

“It’s really the number one spot,” says Lee Laurendeau, CEO of the US branch of EEW. “There is nothing like it in New York or any other state. I know all of these ports, and this is number one.

This is not the kind of work that can be sent to Mexico or China. The parts are so heavy and expensive to move that the New Jersey location offers a huge advantage in supplying the wind farms that are planned throughout the East Coast for decades to come. The expected demand will be between $ 100 billion and $ 150 billion, according to the state’s Economic Development Authority. And while other states will compete for this business, New Jersey has a solid lead.

Dutch company Ørsted has won contracts to build about two-thirds of the 3,700 megawatt capacity approved so far by New Jersey and plans to bid for more. John Pauling is in charge of site research for the company and is impressed with the New Jersey offer. Ports with lots of space nearby are “very rare” and the location is ideal, he says.

“The other really important piece is that there is a skilled workforce to support this,” he says. “All of these things together make it a great place. “

The second port is planned for Artificial Island, next to PSEG’s three nuclear power plants in Salem County. Ørsted is in talks with General Electric to build the 75-ton devices that turn rotating turbines into electricity, known as nacelles, at this site, known as the New Jersey Wind Port. The governor witnessed a first shovelful of dirt last month.

Ørsted plans to assemble the other parts at this site, including the 1,000-foot blades and towers that extend over 500 feet. These heavy towers must be transported at sea in an upright position, so they need a clear path, with no bridges or power lines to interfere. This is another huge plus for this place.

“It’s very rare, and there’s nothing like it, at least in the ports we’ve looked at on the east coast,” says Pauling.

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The cost of offshore wind power is falling rapidly as technology improves, but it still requires a subsidy to compete, which will push up New Jersey’s electricity bills, already among the highest in the country. Projects approved so far will add $ 4.95 to the average residential bill per month and $ 44.99 to the average commercial bill.

Add in infrastructure costs, building the two ports, as well as preparing the land nearby to house heavy fabrication and assembly. Paulsboro cost around $ 400 million, according to the South Jersey Port Authority. And the wind port on the man-made island will cost even more, around $ 1 billion in the end, most of which will be recouped through port royalties and leases on neighboring land, according to Tim Sullivan, director of the Authority. economic development of the state. This year’s budget includes $ 200 million in direct spending for the port.

“We’re in the lead and we have the best horse because of geography,” says Sullivan. “The feedback we are receiving from the market is that it is a particularly well positioned port asset.

With these advantages, New Jersey had leverage to make a key demand from wind companies: if you want to build wind turbines off our shores, you also need to invest in jobs.

“In addition to the environmental benefits, this is an investment in hard manufacturing in New Jersey, which I have no doubts will pay off for decades as the industry expands,” Eric said. Miller of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “New Jersey is the first to reap these benefits. “

Wind companies don’t seem to care. Investing nearby helps ensure a stable supply chain, they say, and shaping and assembling the parts here helps them avoid the huge costs of moving gigantic parts.

“Our intention is to grow here,” says Laurendeau of EEW, at the Paulsboro site, who says the $ 300 million investment is just the start. “We did the hard part by landing here with room to move out.”

Ørsted officials are also optimistic. “New Jersey is a prime location for us, a growth pole for Ørsted globally,” says Madeline Urbish, head of government affairs and corporate policy in the state. “We are committed to building a sustainable industry and supply chain in the United States, and New Jersey has really positioned itself to take the lion’s share.”

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Joe Fiordaliso, head of the Board of Public Utilities, is the man who really pulls those levers when contracting with wind companies. He was appointed by Murphy and gave him specific instructions to get things done.

“Is the cost there? ” he asks. “Yes. Is it going to go down? Yes. But economic development will only increase, and we are in a position to be the supply.

Hats off to Sweeney for starting this all. He and Assembly Member John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) drafted the bill that spelled out that vision and put in place the mechanisms to make it happen, a bill that Sweeney convinced former Governor Chris Christie to sign in 2010. But Christie never used the tools that the law provided him with, fearing high costs, and in 2011 he switched sides on climate and withdrew the state from the regional pact to contain emissions from power plants, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

“Murphy was the one who pressed the start button,” says Sweeney. “He came up with energy policies that were a perfect fit for what we were trying to do, with the same vision that we had to create a manufacturing base for this product. If Phil Murphy wasn’t interested in it, it wouldn’t have happened.

With an election coming up next month, the contrast between Murphy and his Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli, is stark.

After visiting the damage caused by Ida last month, Ciattarelli said climate change should be “high on the priority list” and the state should step up the Blue Acres program to buy property in flood-prone areas. But he has not offered any plans to cut emissions and does not mention the topic on his campaign website. During his 2017 campaign, he opposed the return to the RGGI pact. Murphy’s climate policies, he said, are “too much, too soon, too fast.”

Tell that to the people who are suffering from the floods, fires and droughts we are witnessing across the world. Tell the scientists, who warn that we are already tragically behind in this fight. Tell the kids of New Jersey, who are experiencing epic generational failure.

Fiordaliso has the best answer to Ciattarelli’s passivity: “That’s why I’m not retired,” he says. “This is code red for humanity on climate change, and it scares me, in part because I have grandchildren and they will have children.”

Too much, too soon, too fast? Not hardly.

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