Ørsted wins first 1GW plus US wind farm in New Jersey

It is perhaps no surprise that Denmark’s Ørsted has been awarded the contract to build the New Jersey Board Ocean Wind project 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, the largest US offshore wind farm to date at 1.1 GW capacity.  Ørsted and Denmark generally, was a pioneer of offshore wind and a trip to its capital island of Copenhagen will see it surrounded with offshore wind.

Ørsted will work with local energy management company Public Service Enterprise Group and the energy will be used to power more than half a million New Jersey homes. Work will start in 2020 and is expected to be complete by 2024 and should create 3000 direct jobs while it is being built for 3 years, and some permanent jobs.

New Jersey is almost entirely dependent upon natural gas plants for its 17.8 GW total electricity capacity (around 90% is gas), with a fraction left using coal, and a progressive attitude towards renewables. So this one wind project will account for around 6% of the state’s electricity capacity.

So far it has around 91,000 residential solar installations with capacity up around 1.9 GW as well as 544 MW from utility scale solar. However the state upheld a ban on Fracking and so buys in most of that gas, whereas sun and wind will be free.

The massive wind farm addition has suddenly been given the go ahead, although the project has been under development for quite some time. Currently there are only a handful of onshore wind platforms on the Atlantic Ocean coast.

To add to this new wind facility the state also plans to become a hotbed of battery technology, and wishes to acquire 600 MW of energy storage by 2021 and then drive on upwards to 2.0 GW by 2030 and 100% clean energy production by 2050 – one of the handful of US states with that kind of ambition.

This initial offshore wind farm will have a few subsequent partner sites added later, so that offshore wind is planned to provide around 3.5 GW by 2030.

Ørsted will also launch a Pro-NJ Trust fund in Cape May and Atlantic Counties which will invest up to $15 million in grants to support local infrastructure investments and to support small, women-owned, and minority-owned business owners who wish to become part of the emerging offshore wind industry.

Ørsted will also establish an Operation and Maintenance (O&M) base in Atlantic City that will provide permanent, high-skilled jobs during the 25 lifespan of the project and train locals who are interested in working in wind farms. The Ocean Wind project has agreed to create a project labor agreement which will pay the local prevailing wage for offshore wind construction jobs.

It has also signed up with Rutgers, Stockton, and Rowan Universities to co-operate on academic research, engineering programs and initiatives to further advance knowledge of offshore wind. This is one of the huge benefits of building with renewables, in that skill transfers are usually part and parcel of any major deal.

Ørsted also operates the Block Island Wind Farm, America’s first offshore wind farm, and has a pipeline of development of 8 GW across the US.

This project on its own would mean very little, but this seems to be part of a trend. A month ago when Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts took the decision to shut down, a fleet of 84 offshore wind turbines were contracted for to replace it about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard to generate 800 MW. This would have been the record wind deal prior to this week’s announcement. That should spin up ahead of this project in 2022.

Another venture Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, a 50/50 joint venture between EDF Renewables and Shell New Energies is also planning to develop offshore wind in the New Jersey and New York areas – the two states between them have combined project demand for 12.5 GW of offshore wind, and Atlantic Shores has acquired a 183,000 acre lease area off the coast of New Jersey.

There are larger onshore wind farms, the largest is probably the

3.0 GW Chokecherry and Sierra Madre developments in Wyoming, but these are a long way away from urban centers that need the electricity, so these are tending to be delayed while new transmission facilities are built to shift the energy to where it is needed.

So despite President Trump’s snide inference that wind farms cause brain cancer, the electricity industry has finally begun to see its benefits and get

through the permitting required to scale it up. So far the USA has around 94 GW of all types of wind, and is scaling up at the rate of about 7 GW a year.