Off-shore wind offers opportunity for state to reclaim its place as leader of innovation

Since the days of Thomas Edison and so many others, New Jersey has long been a hub for transformative innovation. In recent decades, however, the state has ceded ground as a locus of innovation to places such as Silicon Valley in California.

Now, New Jersey has an opportunity to lead the nation in an up-and-coming and under-utilized technology: offshore wind. Like solar energy and electric vehicles, offshore wind offers an opportunity to offset the devastating impacts of climate change while also bringing jobs and economic growth to our state.

Gov. Phil Murphy has described offshore wind as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.” His administration plans to install 11 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2040 as part of their 100% clean-energy economy by 2050 target.

This investment can fundamentally transform the New Jersey economy. If we reach 7.5 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035, we could see 20,000 new jobs in construction, manufacturing, and professional services by 2030.

This would be a tremendous gain for our state, which, like many others, has lost manufacturing jobs over the past several decades. New Jersey’s 2022 Offshore Wind Workforce Assessment Report predicts that offshore wind will create jobs in more than 300 occupations, most of which will involve work onshore, like work in factories and construction.

And it’s not just jobs: offshore wind could power an estimated 1.56 million homes each year in New Jersey and bring nearly $3.5 billion in economic impact to our state. As our planet continues to warm, we must pursue policies and projects that have positive environmental and economic impacts, rather than one or the other. In fact, the Biden administration recently approved the largest-ever offshore wind project in U.S. history — a move that could power nearly 400,000 homes.

Despite the obvious multitudes of benefits offshore wind can provide, opponents of the technology are doing their best to suppress these vital projects.

Recently, fossil fuel lobbyists have engaged in a misinformation campaign attempting to link the offshore wind industry to whale deaths. Many of the groups that have sprung up to oppose offshore wind appear to have ties to the fossil fuel industry.

Many experts have pointed out that there’s no evidence that offshore wind caused these whale deaths — saying climate change, not offshore wind, is the more likely culprit. Whales are nothing more than a convenient scapegoat for opponents of renewable energy looking to keep the US dependent on fossil fuels.

The reality is that offshore wind and its potential impacts on New Jersey, both environmentally and economically, have been studied extensively for multiple decades. Our state’s current offshore wind strategic plan includes an extensive roadmap that details the protection of commercial and recreational fishing.

It’s time for New Jersey to seize this moment and be a leader for the rest of the nation. We can make the most of our 130 miles of coastline, as well as our ports and harbors, by using them for operations and maintenance of the wind turbines, further boosting jobs in our state.

Let’s not allow New Jersey to be left behind once again. Offshore wind is an opportunity we can all benefit from — we just need to recognize the opportunity in front of us and take advantage of it.

Kat So is a research associate for Energy and Environment Campaigns at American Progress (and a former resident of West Windsor). She also is the project coordinator for the Ocean Justice Forum.