Why Ørsted CEO feels offshore wind can be ‘economic stimulus machine’ for N.J.

Hardy details need to build out infrastructure, supply chain and new workforce to serve industry

white wind turbine generating electricity on sea

The news last week that Ørsted’s Pro-NJ Grantor Trust Fund will be awarding $15 million in grants to small businesses looking to get involved in the offshore wind industry will be a significant boost to the New Jersey economy — especially since the fund is looking to help companies that are run by women and those from underserved communities.

The program, however, doesn’t begin to put into perspective just how big this industry can be for the state.

How big? Ørsted Offshore North America CEO David Hardy said even people in his company don’t understand its potential size and scope.

“It’s massive, quite frankly,” he told ROI-NJ. “When I talked about it internally with my team, I don’t think Ørsted people fully appreciate it.”

David Hardy. (File photo)

Offshore wind, Hardy said, needs to be viewed as its own entity.

“People sometimes mistakenly compare onshore wind and solar to offshore wind — and it’s really a completely different industry,” he said. “It’s a nascent industry, so we’ve got to build the whole supply chain. We’ve got to build a lot of the infrastructure, ports and vessels and other capabilities. We’ve got to train a new workforce. Besides the green energy component, which is important for the climate change issue, it really is an economic stimulus machine.”

The good news, Hardy said, is that New Jersey officials get it.

“We think New Jersey is at the leading edge of thought leadership and ambition,” he said. “(It has) one of the highest targets for offshore wind. And the way that they’ve developed their scoring mechanism, where they put economic development squarely into the decision-making process, is key. They’re investing in the industry, not just for New Jersey projects, but for New Jerseyans overall, for the opportunity across the whole marketplace. We applaud them and we’re trying to work closely (with them).”

Ørsted is setting down roots in New Jersey.

The company, which won New Jersey’s first offshore wind solicitation in June 2019, submitted a bid to the Board of Public Utilities last month to develop its Ocean Wind 2 project. Ørsted also is a partner with EEW Group and the state on a $250 million facility called Paulsboro Marine Terminal in Gloucester County — one that will build steel components, known as monopiles, for offshore wind turbines that will serve the entire U.S. offshore wind industry.

Hardy works out of Ørsted’s Boston office. But he is a New Jersey native — having been born at a facility at Fort Monmouth many years ago. And, while he doesn’t claim a New Jersey heritage — he said his family moved out of the state shortly after his birth — he’s rooting for New Jersey to be a leader in this industry.

“We see New Jersey as a key market for us,” he said. “And, although we’re a Danish company, I really want to make this an American industry.

“Right now, it is predominantly a European supply chain, but we’re doing our part — and I personally am pushing — to create the U.S. industry, both from a supply standpoint and an infrastructure standpoint, but also from a labor and jobs perspective.”

Hardy points to the company’s recent announcement with North America’s Building Trades Union.

“There’s a lot of different jobs that will come, but one of the most unique is the offshore construction jobs,” he said. “So, we’re working with (the national trades) in conjunction with local labor leaders in New Jersey to develop programs to support the offshore construction jobs.

“There’s onshore construction jobs, there’s onshore manufacturing jobs, there’s offshore operation and maintenance jobs that will come from this, and it’s literally thousands of jobs, both in construction of the infrastructure and the manufacturing facilities and the manufacturing itself, and the natural construction and operation of the wind farm.”

Hardy sees the potential because he has seen how the industry has grown around the world.

“You’ve got 22,000 megawatts of installed turbines in Europe and 7,000-8,000 in Asia — and we’ve got 42 in the U.S.,” he said. “So, we’re playing catchup. But, in the last five years, it’s come on pretty strongly here, with ambitious goals from New Jersey and other states in the East Coast.

“So, I think it’s wise that the New Jersey state leaders are willing to make these upfront investments to try to bring the jobs. Once you get a monopile facility here, you own it, right? There’s not likely going to be another monopile facility on the East Coast for a while. It’s the same thing with other key supply chain elements. New Jersey can be a regional hub.”

Which takes us back to the $15 million in grants that Ørsted is offering small businesses in the state. The money is nice. The opportunity is better.

“This was a different approach, something that we contemplated as a new private source of funding to bring a little more equality and opportunity, so everyone in New Jersey could participate in the offshore wind industry.”