Power potential: As Murphy signs key legislation, offshore wind energy sector continues on path to success — and thousands of jobs

Standing in front of an incredibly long cylinder — a part of a monopile that stretches hundreds of feet and appears to be too big to even be an old-school rocket ship from generations before — Gov. Phil Murphy opened the bill-signing event last week at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal with a simple quip.

“Is it me, or do you feel really small?” he said.

Make no doubt about it: Everything about the offshore wind industry — and all the aspects that come with it — is really big.

And, let’s be clear, the future of the industry in the state — one that has long been a key initiative by the governor — was in big danger before a series of events seemingly has given it a jump-start in the past two weeks.

First, the Legislature passed a bill that will allow Ørsted, the builder of the first offshore wind project in the state, to recoup more of its costs (which are rising) and add to its investment. A bill that, despite going against what was seemingly a misinformation campaign, only served to ensure New Jersey had the same rules as every other state competing for a spot in the billion-dollar industry.

Then, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave the project a Record of Decision, which is not the final approval hurdle — but it allows the project to move from development/permitting phase to construction phase.

But, for as much as these decisions potentially could help the state meet its ambitious clean energy goals, the biggest win in all of this is the jobs that come with supporting the industry.

It’s why Murphy, in his first big event since the passage of the state budget June 30, talked about the wind energy bill (and the film industry bill) rather than other parts of the record $54.5 billion budget.

It’s why he was joined by so many elected officials and labor leaders at the event.

At the Paulsboro Marine Terminal, parts of monopiles, stretching hundreds of feet, dwarf the event-goers.

“Just look around us and you see the scale of these (completed) monopiles — the first ones completed on U.S. soil,” he said. “And all that happened right here in Paulsboro, at this facility.

“With facilities like this, and our Wind Port in Salem County, New Jersey is literally building the foundation for our nation’s entire wind industry. And this bill will allow these projects to expand and create even more jobs.”

Murphy was quick to put it in perspective.

“This is going to happen,” he said. “The only question is, in what state was what’s going to happen? And thank God it’s going to happen in New Jersey.”

Much like other states grabbed the lead in the production of rockets — and all the items that go with them — New Jersey officials have long pushed the idea that the push for wind energy is as much about the economic benefits as the environmental ones.

Southern New Jersey Building Trades Council President Daniel Cosner has seen the impact up close.

Cosner, who has worked in the trades in South Jersey for decades, said the monopile facility represents a new era of jobs (some estimate 1,500) and opportunities in a part of the state that desperately needed it.

“You saw what was just an overgrown place become something that’s massive like this,” he said. “It really hits your heart when you see this happening. And it affects so many people.”

Cosner said he feels the long-term jobs are an economic stimulus for the surrounding communities.

Daniel Cosner. (Courtesy photo)

“This is what happens when the public and private sector get together to ensure the economy moves in the right direction,” he said.

Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees) stressed how New Jersey can truly be at the center of it all.

“This location, this port becomes the national hub for the East Coast to provide, not just for New Jersey, but for wind energy over multiple states up and down the East Coast,” he said.

And then, there are the jobs that come with it.

“This legislation means a minimum of 1,500 jobs in New Jersey, it means hundreds of millions of dollars in economic production and revenue,” he said. “Over 200 New Jersey companies, small businesses that will enter interact.”

Jobs, Greenwald said, that are more than just a paycheck. 

“Jobs equate to dignity and respect,” he said. “These are real jobs for real families with real dreams.”

That’s not to say the offshore wind industry won’t be a key player in the fight against climate change.

Greenwald recognized that importance, too.

“I will tell you, there’s lots of propaganda that’s out there about it, but climate change is for real,” he said. 

“When I started my career, 28 years ago, a lot of people were still climate deniers. They don’t deny it anymore, but they’re not willing to take the very difficult and necessary steps to attack it. This is not in and of itself one solution, but it is a piece of the puzzle. And everybody has a responsibility and an obligation to do their part.”

The fact that obligation comes with thousands of jobs that seemingly will last for generations is a key bonus, Murphy said.

“This bill enables New Jersey’s first offshore wind project, Ocean Wind 1, to move forward by tapping into federal tax credits, specifically designated to help the offshore wind industry,” he said. “And this bill will also trigger an additional $200 million of private sector investment in manufacturing facilities in our state.  

“I cannot emphasize this enough: We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity, right now, to bring tens of thousands of overwhelmingly union jobs and billions of dollars of investment to our state with offshore wind.”

Conversation Starter

Reach Southern New Jersey Building Trades Council at: njbctc.org or call 732-499-0100.

Salute to Sweeney, Burzichelli

Gov. Phil Murphy and every speaker who followed gave great praise to two former South Jersey elected leaders: Steve Sweeney, below left, (the former state Senate president) and John Burzichelli, below right (a former assemblyman). Both were early supporters of offshore wind.

“Let me be unequivocal about these two guys: They championed offshore wind from the very beginning, including long before I got here,” Murphy said. “They saw early on the jobs potential for this district in Gloucester County, in South Jersey more broadly. And they helped make sure that we kept this plant open. 

John Burzichelli

“Throughout this journey, they have been invaluable partners, and I cannot thank them enough. And I can say unequivocally, without Steve and John’s support and help, we would not be here today without that.”