This story originally appeared on NJ Spotlight.
New Jersey boosted its fledgling offshore wind industry with the announcement Tuesday of a $250 million private investment in a manufacturing plant for wind turbine towers at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal on the Delaware River in South Jersey.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the German company EEW will build the giant towers at the site initially for Ørsted, the Danish company that is due to build the state’s first wind farm off Atlantic City, and later for the rest of the offshore wind industry.
Murphy, who last year set a goal that New Jersey will buy 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2035, said the investment is the largest of its kind so far in the United States, whose offshore wind industry consists now of only one operating wind farm — also operated by Ørsted — off the coast of Rhode Island.
At a news conference on the dockside at Paulsboro, Murphy said the project would also complement a state-led wind port in nearby Salem County that will be built starting in 2021 to assemble wind-farm components.
“This is the largest investment in offshore wind manufacturing in the United States to date, and when partnered with the New Jersey wind port taking shape a number of miles down the road, with 1,500 jobs being created there, the impact of the offshore wind industry on our state will be huge,” Murphy said at the event that was also attended by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1st), Board of Public Utilities President Joseph Fiordaliso, and officials from trade unions that will get most of the 500 jobs that are expected to be created there.
Towers will weigh up to 5 million pounds each
Lee Laurendeau, chief executive of EEW American Offshore Structures, which will build the towers, known as monopiles, said the company has already built about 1,000 of them for Ørsted in Europe, and from the New Jersey port will be doing so in the early stages of the American offshore wind industry.
The structures will be up to 40 feet in diameter and 400 feet tall, made with five-inch thick steel plate, and weighing up to 5 million pounds each. “They will roll right off this dock in a few years,” he said.
In one sign of the industry’s potential for New Jersey, at least seven northeastern states have committed to buying 2,600 MW of offshore wind energy, or more than three times New Jersey’s target, in the next 35 years, according to a study this year by the University of Delaware.
That study argued that the strong demand showed the time is right for offshore wind infrastructure companies like EEW, and the future occupants of New Jersey’s wind port, to set up ports to service the industry. Advocates say the Delaware River and Bay is the right place to service the industry because it is centrally located on the East Coast.
The project was welcomed by one environmental group as an important step toward creating a clean-energy economy, and a way of creating jobs at a time when the economy is struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘A win-win-win for wind’
“This is a win-win-win for wind,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This new facility will create green jobs and help jumpstart our economy at a time when we need it most. The plant in Paulsboro will spur the development of offshore wind in New Jersey. It will help make the first 1,000 MW of offshore wind happen, but more importantly it will help us get to the state’s goal of 7,500 MW.”
Tittel said the towers built in Paulsboro can be floated to the new wind port on a PSEG site at Lower Alloways Creek in Salem County, a project that was announced earlier this year.
Murphy, who has set a state goal of achieving 100% clean energy by 2050, said it was significant that the plant is being built on the remediated former site of BP, one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel energy companies.
“For years, our economy was fed a steady diet of polluting fossil fuels that were refined and stored right here. But it is now from this point where New Jersey and the nation’s transformation from an economy reliant only on fossil fuels to one that runs on clean, renewable energy, begins,” Murphy said.
The project will also help the state recover from the economic devastation of the pandemic, Murphy said. “We know that rebuilding the economy for the post-COVID world means building back smarter and more resilient than ever before with the jobs to match,” he said. “This facility will help us get there.”