By Gina G. Scala
If there’s a message proponents of wind farms planned off the coast of New Jersey want to make clear in the wake of Ørsted’s announcement that it was abandoning its two projects, it’s this: It isn’t over.
“This one setback won’t stop you all and the movement toward offshore wind development from happening in New Jersey. (It’s) still happening,” Sandra Meola Bodner, state director of the Energy Foundation, said during a New Jersey Resource Project panel discussion about the future of offshore wind in wake of the Danish-based wind energy developer abandoning its plans to build and operate Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2. “Offshore wind didn’t die in New Jersey with Ørsted pulling out. We have the Atlantic Shores project. It seems Atlantic Shores is in it to win it here.”
Ørsted announced its plans late last month, citing the current market, supply chain issues, project delays and rising interest rates.
“I found myself going through many emotions with finding out Ørsted had pulled out of our offshore wind farms after putting in a lot of time and a lot of effort in trying to educate the public about this topic. And also, as an environmentalist, as a person who lives at the beach,” Ship Bottom resident Amy Williams, Alliance for a Living Ocean former director, said last week. “It concerns me because I do see a very strong need for this future to be more sustainable, to get away from our fossil fuels and to be able to have our clean energy that will be able to support our world.”
In the meantime, Atlantic Shores reaffirmed its commitment to its projects planned off the New Jersey coast. The Atlantic Shores offshore wind project is comprised of three phases, with the first expected to be approved later this year. It includes 120 turbines to be placed in the Atlantic Ocean, with phase two calling for the placement of 80 turbines; phase three has 157 turbines. As proposed, the wind farm would see 1,050-foot-high turbines between 9½ and 13½ miles off the entire length of LBI, extending farther eastward into the Atlantic Ocean.
The project is a 50-50 partnership between Shell New Energies US LLC and EDF Renewables North America. It was formed in December 2018 to co-develop nearly 183,353 acres of leased sea area on the Outer Continental Shelf, located within the New Jersey Wind Energy Area.
“We also have expected in early 2024 for the state of New Jersey to award additional offshore projects,” Bodner added. “That would be the third solicitation of projects, and then after that, I think, it will be up to a lot of the advocates to continue putting on the pressure for a fourth round.”
Still, she said offshore wind is just one piece of the puzzle toward a future with clean energy at the helm.
“I think it would be silly to say these projects are going to stop climate change, like full stop. This is one strategy in the larger, clean energy transition that is happening. There is no doubt that it is happening,” Bodner said. “I think it’s important to recognize that when Ørsted first was awarded the projects for both Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2, this was pre-COVID, pre-inflation, pre-supply chain challenges, so the cost is a lot different now. They did not pull out, under any circumstances, due to opposition voices. This was purely economic forces at hand that none of us had control over.”
Opponents of offshore wind see the Danish-based wind energy giant’s announcement as a milestone in the ongoing fight to keep the Atlantic Ocean free from being industrialized.
“New Jersey was rushing too fast to implement offshore wind programs without doing its due diligence both in terms of the partners it was choosing to enter into contract with and the impact that these turbine systems and their construction are and will have on marine mammals, coastal communities and their economies, and public safety,” said David Shanker, a New Jersey-based spokesman for Green Oceans. “Ørsted’s proposed Jersey Shore projects were going to cost taxpayers all while failing to impact global warming. We hope our elected officials will make the most of this major warning sign and cease the reckless and rapid industrialization of the Garden State’s greatest gem, our shore.”
Apostolos Gerasoulis of Save the East Coast added, “We remain united in our efforts and commitment to stopping this reckless industrialization of our ocean and coastal communities.”