This story originally appeared on NJ Spotlight.
New Jersey plans to ramp up its reliance on offshore wind, now with a new executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy to increase the state’s goal for building wind farms off the coast.
Murphy, speaking Wednesday at an event in New York City for Climate Week, increased the state’s target of 7,500 megawatts from wind turbines by 2035 to 11,000 MW by 2040. The move underscores the importance of offshore wind in achieving the administration’s transition to a 100% clean-energy economy by mid-century.
“This is an aggressive target, but achievable,’’ Murphy said. At the same time, he announced the release of a Council on the Green Economy study that projected the state can expect an additional 314,886 net jobs over the next 10 years based on current green policies and investment.
In announcing the increased offshore wind goal, a jump of nearly 50%, Murphy also talked about a further expansion that may be in the offing. The state Board of Public Utilities was directed in the executive order to study the feasibility of raising the target further.
“Offshore wind is the best way to reach New Jersey’s clean renewable energy mandates and Gov. Murphy’s executive order cements the reality that offshore wind will continue to expand over the next decade plus,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.
Offshore wind targets
Clean-energy advocates have long pressed the administration to pursue more ambitious offshore wind targets. Murphy has done so before. In 2019, he increased his administration’s original target of having 3,500 MW in the state by 2030 to the 7,500-MW target by 2035.
So far, the state has approved building 3,700 MW to be generated by three projects off the New Jersey coast, but none yet have been built. The first wind farm is expected to be operating by mid-decade. The state has scheduled a third solicitation seeking to build 1,200 MW in the first quarter of 2023.
“This bold new goal solidifies New Jersey’s place as a national leader in renewable energy and further demonstrates the Governor’s commitment to aggressively combatting climate change in the state,’’ said Janice Fuller, mid-Atlantic president for Anbaric Development Partners. The company is one of 13 bidders seeking to build offshore wind transmission from the coastal wind farms to the electric grid on land.
Technological advances in the offshore wind sector are making wind turbines more and more efficient, Murphy said, a trend that will make the increased offshore wind goal achievable.
Growing a green workforce
In the report on the green economy, the analysis outlines recommendations and pathways for growing a demographically representative green workforce as the state pursues its clean-energy future. The priorities include ensuring a diverse workforce, particularly including people from environmental justice communities, and providing opportunities for current workers in the energy field as the state moves away from its reliance on fossil fuels.
As part of that effort, Murphy announced $10 million in new investment, which will guide the state as it prepares to execute a one-year action plan designed to generate well-paying jobs in the green economy. In 2019, the council report noted clean-energy workers in New Jersey earned a median hourly wage of $24.22 — 12% higher than the overall statewide median wage of $21.64 across all occupations.
“The transition to a green economy will create thousands of good paying, family sustaining jobs for New Jersey workers and offers an unprecedented opportunity to expand our workforce that will ensure fossil fuel workers will not be left behind,’’ said Debra Coyle, executive director of the NJ Work Environment Council and a member of the Council on the Green Economy.