U.S. offshore wind poised to take off with major announcements out of New York and New Jersey

States seek exemption from Trump's offshore drilling plan.

The Block Island Wind Farm, off the shores of Rhode Island, is the first offshore wind project in the United States. CREDIT: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images
The Block Island Wind Farm, off the shores of Rhode Island, is the first offshore wind project in the United States. CREDIT: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

As the Trump administration looks to open up the Atlantic Ocean up to oil and gas drilling, New Jersey and New York are racing forward to develop offshore wind energy projects that would generate significant amounts of power and create thousands of clean energy jobs.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order on Wednesday that will direct state agencies to meet a goal of 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. Earlier in the week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said the state is aiming to have offshore wind farms totaling 2,400 megawatts, equivalent to about five fossil fuel-burning power plants. Both New Jersey and New York have asked the U.S. Department of the Interior for exemptions from its offshore drilling plan.

Murphy’s executive order is a marked departure from the actions of former Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) tenure. After Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act into law in 2010, he worked to kill potential projects and ultimately came out against offshore wind. Murphy’s focus on wind energy is his latest move to undo Christie’s work and make the state a leader in clean energy.

“Our goal is to grow offshore wind in a way that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels,” Murphy said Wednesday in a statement. “New Jersey is committed to growing our clean energy sector, and offshore wind is at the crux of increasing that part of our economy.”

Murphy’s executive order directs the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to work together to establish an Offshore Wind Strategic Plan for New Jersey. The plan will focus on job growth, workforce development, data collection, and protection of offshore natural resources.

Christie’s 2010 legislation allowed state agencies to craft an Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Credit program. Under Murphy’s order, the Board of Public Utilities will implement the offshore renewable energy credit program by approving financial plans submitted by offshore wind developers. Afterwards, the board will issue a solicitation calling for proposed offshore wind projects for the generation of 1,100 megawatts.

“The state policy on offshore wind has remained frozen in amber over the last seven plus years. That era has finally come to an end with the actions of Gov. Murphy,” Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley said in a statement.

New Jersey's proposed offshore wind lease area. CREDIT: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
New Jersey's proposed offshore wind lease area. CREDIT: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management auctioned areas of federal waters off New Jersey’s coast for commercial wind development. However, offshore wind development progress stalled under Christie. The federal government was pushing wind energy as the state government stood in the way, Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, told Bloomberg News.

Deepwater Wind built North America’s first — and so far only — offshore wind farm in 2016, a 30-megawatt project near Block Island, Rhode Island. Several other offshore wind projects off the Atlantic Coast are in development.

Jeremy Firestone, director of the center for carbon-free power integration at the University of Delaware, is optimistic about the future of these projects. The profit margins for offshore wind power in Europe have become quite small, said Firestone, so the United States presents a great opportunity for offshore wind power developers.

Denmark-headquartered Orsted, the largest offshore wind power developer in the world, recently passed on submitting a bid in the Netherlands to focus on development opportunities in the United States. “That is a strong signal on its belief about the robustness of the U.S. market,” Firestone said in an email to ThinkProgress.

On Monday, Gov. Cuomo’s administration released an offshore wind master plan for New York. To kick off the effort, the state is seeking proposals from wind farm developers for projects totaling 800 megawatts.

New York is targeting a 16,000 square-mile section of the Atlantic extending from New York City and the south shore of Long Island to beyond the continental shelf. It does not include the Great Lakes region, where a state-sponsored bid by the New York Power Authority to develop wind farms collapsed in 2010.

“While the federal government continues to turn its back on protecting natural resources and plots to open up our coastline to drilling, New York is doubling down on our commitment to renewable energy and the industries of tomorrow,” Cuomo said Monday in a statement.

Cuomo has committed $15 million to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, a state agency, for workforce training to teach the skills needed for the offshore wind industry and the development of port infrastructure.

In 2016, Norway’s Statoil won the first federal offshore wind lease in New York for an area 20 miles south of Long Island. The company is planning a 600-megawatt wind farm called Empire Wind for the site. If the company finds a buyer for the power the project will produce, construction could begin in 2023.

Deepwater Wind has contracted with the Long Island Power Authority for 90 megawatts of power from the proposed South Fork Wind Farm, which is planned for a site east of Long Island. Construction could begin in 2019.