Offshore wind turbines are coming to the Jersey Shore

The ‘historic’ approval by regulators clears the way for a 1,100-megawatt wind project about 15 miles off Atlantic City, enough power for 500,000 homes.

Pictured here is a wind farm in the Baltic Sea is a joint venture of the Essen-based energy group Eon and the Norwegian shareholder Equinor. (Bernd W'stneck/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Pictured here is a wind farm in the Baltic Sea is a joint venture of the Essen-based energy group Eon and the Norwegian shareholder Equinor. (Bernd W'stneck/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Beachgoers in New Jersey may soon be able to see wind turbines off the coast of Atlantic City, at least on a clear day.

State regulators approved an offshore wind project Friday that would generate enough electricity to power roughly half a million homes while raising utility bills about $18 a year for the average household.

The 1,100 megawatts of capacity awarded by the Board of Public Utilities is the largest bid ever approved in America and could give New Jersey an edge in a burgeoning and lucrative industry.

“Offshore wind is the largest gold mine for the green-energy economy,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “You’re talking about the potential to be the offshore wind hub for the entire Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.”

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The Danish company Orsted was the winning bidder Friday. The company has said it will build its turbines about 15 miles from Atlantic City — far enough to have “minimal visual impacts.”

The first of about 140 turbines are scheduled to start generating power in 2024, following a lengthy permitting and construction process. The project will create 15,000 jobs over the 20-year life of the project, the board said, and help lessen the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels.

Two other bids, from the Norwegian energy company Equinor and a joint venture between Shell New Energies and EDF Renewables, were rejected.

Friday marked the first approval of any offshore-wind capacity in New Jersey, a top priority for Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who has set a goal of developing 3,500 MW of offshore-wind energy by 2030.

Several BPU commissioners called the day “historic.” It’s been a decade since former Gov. Chris Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, which aimed to support at least 1,100 MW of turbines off New Jersey’s coast.

“This is kind of like giving birth,” said Commissioner Mary-Anna Holden. “Elephants only take two years in their gestation. Offshore wind took 10.”

The Board of Public Utilities is expected to solicit an additional 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind capacity next year and again in 2022.

Only one offshore wind farm currently exists in the United States: a five-turbine project off the coast of Rhode Island operated by Orsted.

Interest in the technology is growing rapidly. As NJSpotlight recently reported, New Jersey is vying with other states to develop port facilities that can accommodate the manufacturing, staging and assembly of the massive wind turbines and other components needed to grow an offshore-wind industry.

The states that are able to establish themselves early could get the lion’s share of the investment and jobs generated by the industry in the coming years — the scale of which could be enormous.

BVG Associates, a renewable energy consultancy, has estimated the industry could create the equivalent of 500,000 years of full-time employment over three decades nationwide.

The Orsted project will receive an estimated $1.6 billion in subsidies from ratepayers over the life of the project, said Kelly Mooij, deputy director of the state’s Office of Clean Energy.

The BPU said in a statement that translates to a monthly bill increase of $1.46 for residential, $13.05 for commercial and $110.10 for industrial customers.

Costs will increase for customers as more offshore wind projects are approved and come online.

Orsted was chosen, in part, because it provided the strongest guarantees to source and manufacture parts in New Jersey, the BPU added.

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