Proponents of New Jersey’s aggressive effort to catch up with its East Coast neighbors in planned offshore wind projects see the centrally located state as a potential hub for the regional movement, if it can build up infrastructure and a development supply chain. But market participants meeting in Hamilton, N.J., on Nov. 9, voiced concerns over power grid connections and ratepayer commitment.
Under new Gov. Phil Murphy (D), the state aims to build 3,500 MW of offshore wind by 2030, and will choose a developer next year for the first 1,100 MW, with two solicitations of 1,200 MW each planned in 2020 and 2022. “We’re not fooling around,” said state Board of Public Utilities President Joseph L. Fiordaliso at a forum sponsored by online publication New Jersey Spotlight.
Under Murphy predecessor Chris Christie (R), the board declined to approve offshore wind proposals. Now the agency has been deemed by state legislators as New Jersey’s “clean energy center,” Fiordaliso said. A clean energy master plan will be released by June that will include energy storage, microgrids and solar energy projects, he added.
While Fiordaliso and other participants said U.S offshore wind costs have dropped to as low as 6.5¢ per kw/hour, there is question about whether ratepayers will support it as a competitive power source.
Clarke Bruno, an offshore wind transmission developer with Anbaric, advocated for competition and a “shared approach” to reduce costs in building grid-connecting infrastructure.
But Thomas Brøstrom, president of wind farm developer giant Ørsted North America, said transmission is a small part of overall project cost and can be more efficient with design and construction handled by one developer. Douglas Copeland, project manager for Nautilus Offshore Wind LLC, which seeks to build a pilot 25-MW project off Atlantic City, said transmission “must come on line when foundations go in.”
Copeland said his project will be important to “learn where the offshore wind supply chain gaps are” in the state. He sees potential for Atlantic City to become an O&M hub “for the whole East Coast.” For now, the state is offering tax credits to upgrade the port of Paulsboro as a project staging base.