BPU: N.J.’s offshore wind plan getting international attention

New Jersey is getting attention as one of the first states to push for an aggressive offshore wind plan, thanks to Gov. Phil Murphy.

“The interest has become international,” said Joe Fiordaliso, president of the state Board of Public Utilities.

The BPU has been in conversation with the Danish embassy and others who have “suddenly discovered New Jersey is a player as far as offshore wind is concerned,” he said.

In addition, New Jersey was recognized at the US Offshore Wind 2018 conference and exhibition, organized by New Energy Update and held in Boston this week.

Elisabeth Treseder, senior regulatory adviser for Danish offshore wind developer Ørsted, and Kenneth Sheehan from the BPU were on the panel to discuss New Jersey’s development plan — including “how new leadership in New Jersey will ensure that offshore wind advances rapidly and expands its mandate to 3,500 MW of capacity,” according to the agenda.

Despite a push for offshore wind for more than seven years, from companies like Fishermen’s Energy, the plan to produce 3,500 megawatts by 2030 in the state is still in its infancy.

The strategic plan is still in the works and consultants will soon be hired to assist in the process.

But there is still optimism among developers and the BPU.

“We are moving rapidly in the right direction,” Fiordaliso said.

But New Jersey’s entrance is interestingly timed.

For one, three other Northeastern states are also pushing into the market at the same time — New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — which means there is going to be competition for a leader in the market.

In addition, Europe has been doing the heavy lifting to learn from earlier mistakes to improve the process and technology, making it competitive and cheaper for New Jersey to enter — and meaning Gov. Chris Christie’s rejection of the technology was a blessing in disguise.

“Sometimes, there are blessings in disguise,” Fiordaliso said. “I think it has to be understood that New Jersey is a little behind. We’re kind of playing catchup here. We want to work regionally — certainly with our neighbors in New York — to achieve goals that are beneficial to the state and the entire region, and, hopefully, to the entire planet.”

But the recognition at the event in Boston this week is proof that the Garden State has a chance to be among the leaders in the state, just as it was in solar energy.

All this means is that the state will rely less on other states’ energy production.

“Our dependency on imports is becoming less,” Fiordaliso said. “Obviously, natural gas has hit a boom in our region due to the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, but we are also seeing more and more of our energy generated by clean energy.”

Meanwhile, gas and nuclear energy will act as a bridge until there is greater production, he said.

“All the preliminary work is beginning (for offshore wind), but when the first turbine is in the ocean, I can’t tell that now. We want to be prudent as we move forward because, ultimately, the ratepayer, you and I, are going to pay for it. We want to make sure we are doing it right,” Fiordaliso said.

In that planning process, the state has paid attention to international summits to learn from mistakes made by the pioneers — European countries including Denmark, Germany and the U.K.

“It’s exciting to see the direction New Jersey is taking,” Fiordaliso said.

Read more from ROI-NJ: