Tired of Waiting, Feds Move Forward On Off-Shore Wind Leases Off the Jersey Shore

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Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center

Trenton– The Department of Interior announced this morning the final notice of sale of leases for close to 344,000 acres off the Jersey Shore for off-shore wind leasing. The competitive lease sale has been scheduled a month and a half from now on Monday, November 9, and 13 companies have qualified to bid in the lease for sale. The announcements comes after last summer’s proposed notice of sale and an extensive public comment period and five years after the signing by Gov. Christie of the Off-Shore Wind Economic Development Act.

“Today’s announcement removes one more barrier to off-shore wind in New Jersey,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “With this federal action, it makes it even more critical for the Christie Administration to move forward with the long-stalled state off-shore wind program. New Jersey’s off-shore wind potential is still a gold mine, and can power our state with clean energy for decades to come.”

More than 1.5 million acres off the Atlantic Coast — now including close to 344,000 acres off New Jersey’s waters which were announced today for the final notice of sale of leases — have already been designated by state and federal officials for offshore wind power development and more are being considered.  These areas could produce more than 16,000 megawatts – including more than 3,400 megawatts from New Jersey alone — of virtually pollution-free electricity. These total areas of off-shore wind development could equal as much as 16 fossil-fuel burning power plants—making offshore wind an attractive option for states developing plans to shift to clean energy to achieve the targets in Clean Power Plan, recently finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in early August.

“I am glad to see BOEM moving forward with plans to auction off 344,000 acres off the coast of New Jersey for the development of clean, limitless wind power,” said Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). “Projects like this are vital in our fight to expand clean energy, cut carbon pollution, and create good paying jobs.  Today’s announcement is just another example of how New Jersey can become a national leader in the clean energy economy.”

There will be two lease areas in the total Wind Energy Areas that will be put up for auction by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The final notice of sale will require that off-shore wind companies can’t bid and be awarded both lease areas.

The proposed off-shore wind lease area, if fully developed, could power more than 1.2 million homes. The Wind Energy Area begins about seven nautical miles off the coast from Atlantic City (A map can be found here.)

The Bureau of Ocean Management has already awarded nine commercial offshore wind leases, including seven through the competitive lease sale process (two in an area offshore Rhode Island-Massachusetts, another two offshore Massachusetts, two offshore Maryland and one offshore Virginia). These lease sales have generated about $14.5 million in winning bids for more than 700,000 acres in federal waters. This July, Deepwater Wind put steel in the water to officially begin the construction of the nation’s first off-shore wind mill of the coast of Rhode Island and near Block Island. The project will deliver 30 megawatts.

Last month, more than 40 organizations, legislators, businesses, unions and local officials delivered a letter to Gov. Christie, urging him to make offshore wind power, which has vast potential in New Jersey, a key part of the state’s energy supply, on the 5 year anniversary of his signing the Off-Shore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA).

The legislation’s intent has languished at the Board of Public Utilities, missing deadlines that stretch into the years. During BPU President Rick Mroz’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary committee this July, he committed the BPU to hiring a consultant to help aid on finalizing the much-delayed BPU off-shore wind rules.

“Governor Christie signed a bill five years ago greenlighting off-shore wind off the Jersey Shore, but we’re still stuck in neutral,” O’Malley. “New Jersey has turned from a leader to a laggard on off-shore wind, and we’re still waiting for off-shore wind rules from the Board of Public Utilities. Our clean energy future is blowing in the wind, and we need to harness it. We’re thankful that the Department of Interior is moving forward with the off-shore wind process here in New Jersey, but the BPU still needs to deliver.”

Environment New Jersey is a citizen based state-wide environmental advocacy organization representing more than 20,000 citizen members across New Jersey, and is based in New Brunswick and Trenton.