Report: N.J. could meet entire electric demand with offshore wind

State ranks No. 7 on East Coast for technical potential, but No. 1 for current projects in pipeline

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, chair of the Science, Innovation & Technology Committee, is excited. A report released Thursday by the Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group said New Jersey ranks No. 7 among Atlantic coastal states for its technical potential for total offshore wind power — but first among the states for current projects in the pipeline.

To Zwicker (D-Monmouth Junction), it’s evidence that the state’s commitment to offshore wind energy is a solid bet.

“For decades, we have looked to the sun for clean, renewable energy and the solar energy industry has continued to grow and mature,” he said. “Now, it is time to tap into the enormous potential of offshore wind to help meet New Jersey’s clean energy goals to power our homes, schools and businesses with electricity that produces no greenhouse gases.

“This report clearly lays out the potential for New Jersey to become a national leader in offshore wind power and recommends effective and responsible policies that are necessary to develop this new energy sector quickly.”

The report, Offshore Wind for America, examined U.S. offshore wind potential by both coastal region and by state, while documenting the status of existing projects and technological advances.

The report said New Jersey could provide 379% of its 2019 electrical needs and 167% of its 2050 electrical usage with offshore wind alone, according to an analysis using National Renewable Energy Laboratory data. For projections of 2050 electricity demand, the report assumes that U.S. buildings, industry and transportation will all be powered by electricity rather than fossil fuels by mid-century.

Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center, said the report is favorable to the state.

“New Jersey has some of the largest offshore wind potential in the country,” he said. “By taking advantage of it, we can solidify our place as a leader in clean, renewable energy. Offshore wind is a clean energy goldmine off the Jersey Shore.

“Offshore Wind for America reminds us that offshore wind can and will rise to the occasion of meeting our energy needs right here in New Jersey. This incredible resource is still largely untapped, but we have the chance to take advantage of it and build a resilient green future for New Jerseyans. Now is the time to go big on offshore wind.”

The report offered recommendations on how offshore wind can power the U.S. with clean energy — but taking advantage of the opportunity will require support from policymakers and regulatory bodies. To help the industry grow, and to hasten the transition to renewable energy, governments and regulatory agencies at all levels should:

  • Provide market certainty for offshore wind, as Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virginia have done by setting enforceable targets for offshore wind deployment;
  • Support domestic supply chain development;
  • Set national standards to ensure the environmental integrity of offshore wind projects and to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to marine ecosystems and wildlife;
  • Direct the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and relevant state agencies to accelerate the offshore wind leasing and permitting process while ensuring transparency and environmental responsibility;
  • Increase and extend tax credits for offshore wind power;
  • Plan for regional offshore wind development, including transmission infrastructure;
  • Support research and development of new offshore wind technologies.

New Jersey got strong marks in the report for having the largest permitted project moving forward in the country — Ocean Wind off of Atlantic City — which will produce 1100 megawatts of energy 14-plus miles off the Jersey Shore. The Ørsted project was awarded the first solicitation by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. This June, the second solicitation will be awarded by NJBPU for offshore wind projects up to 2400 MW, and the NJBPU has outlined a solicitation schedule through 2035.

The Atlantic region — from Maine to Florida — has the technical potential to produce almost 4600 TWh of electricity each year, more than four times as much power as those states used in 2019, and almost twice as much as they would use in 2050 if the country underwent maximal electrification, based on estimates from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The Atlantic region, especially the Northeast, has strong, consistent wind and a wide, shallow continental shelf, making deployment of offshore wind relatively straightforward using existing technology.

The report outlined the expected wind capacity for the two current Wind Energy Areas that have been leased by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to Ørsted and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind and lists the potential for offshore wind of 1947 and 2500 MW, respectively, which is the largest combined total of potential wind in the country.

The current Ørsted project has been granted a solicitation by NJBPU of 1100 MW, which is the largest in the country right now.