It’s Official: New Jersey Goes From Leader to Laggard As Rhode Island Wind Project Flips Switch on America’s First Off-Shore Wind Project

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Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center

In an historic moment for off-shore wind in the United States, the first offshore wind project in the country, Block Island Wind Farm, began producing clean, pollution-free power to Block Island, an island located 13 miles south of mainland Rhode Island. For over a decade, offshore wind has been taking off around the world while the United States industry lagged. The completion and operation of the Block Island Wind Farm signals a breakthrough for offshore wind and the beginning of a new clean energy chapter for America.

“America has finally tapped into the tremendous resource of off-shore wind,” said Doug O’Malley, Environment New Jersey’s director. “The Block Island Wind Farm and Deepwater Wind have led the way on off-shore wind and offer a clear path for states like New Jersey – which could have been first – to move towards a clean energy future.”

The 30 megawatt, 5 turbine project, completed by off-shore wind developer Deepwater Wind, has the potential to supply all of Block Island with clean, renewable energy. The project is located three miles off the coast of Rhode Island and east of Long Island, New York. The project will save Block Island residents as much as 40 percent on electricity bills, while creating 300 jobs.

“By reducing the use of dirty fossil fuels, this project is great for the people of Block Island,” said O’Malley.  “And so many other communities can benefit from this technology. Off-shore wind can help replace dirty fossil fuel energy with clean power all along the Atlantic seaboard, and put us on a path to 100 percent renewable energy, including here in New Jersey.”

The Obama Administration’s leadership helps ensure that Block Island is the first of many offshore wind projects here in the U.S. In September, the Department of Interior and Department of Energy released the National Offshore Wind Strategy that lays out a vision of 86 GW of wind energy by 2050.

Along with the Obama Administration, some state officials along the Atlantic coast are embracing the potential for off-shore wind to provide pollution-free energy and create clean energy jobs in their state. This summer in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker, signed a new law calling for 1,600 MW of off-shore wind development in the state, the largest commitment to off-shore wind in the country.

Despite the progress made by the Block Island project, there is still work to do along the coast to ensure the drumbeat of development and investment continues and cements off-shore wind as a key component to tackle climate change. While Massachusetts and Rhode Island lead the way, many states along the Atlantic Coast are still not poised to tap into this tremendous clean energy resource, including New Jersey.

More than six years after the passage of the Off-Shore Wind Economic Development Act, the potential for off-shore wind off the Jersey Shore remains strong. But the Christie Administration has permanently stalled on moving forward with off-shore wind, despite the federal auction more than a year ago of more than 340,000 acres of ocean waters off the Shore to some of the largest off-wind companies in the world.

“New Jersey has fully gone from leader to laggard on off-shore wind. Like Marlon Brandon, we coulda been a contenda for the first off-shore wind farm in the nation,” said O’Malley. “Instead, off-shore wind is moving ahead in other states. But the potential clean energy off the Jersey Shore remains the highest on the East Coast. The Christie Administration has clearly decided to take a pass on off-shore wind, but the winds of change are blowing in Trenton.”

There is still the pending Fishermens’ Energy pilot project in state waters off of Atlantic City, which has been awarded competitive Dept. of Energy grants. The federal auction of off-shore wind leases, which generated close to $2 million in successful bids to U.S. Wind and DONG Energy, is a reminder of the strong interest in New Jersey’s off-shore wind potential.

“There is huge offshore wind potential along the Atlantic Coast, from Maine to South Carolina. Of coursre, some of the largest potential remains off the Jersey Shore. To truly take advantage of this pollution-free resource, we need state leaders to make clear long-term commitments to powering their states with clean, renewable energy like offshore wind power,” said O’Malley. “It is important that we build off this historic moment and ensure that the Block Island Offshore Wind Farm is the first of many powering the U.S.”