ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey utility regulators approved the state's second and third offshore wind projects Wednesday, advancing the state's quest to become a national leader in the wind power industry.
The state Board of Public Utilities approved both projects that had applied under the second round of consideration: EDF/Shell's Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind and Orsted's Ocean Wind II. Orsted, the Danish wind energy developer, was the first project approved by New Jersey in 2019.
The award was the largest combined wind project approval in U.S. history, and will generate enough electricity to power 1.15 million homes, the board said.
Combined, the two projects will generate 2,658 megawatts of electricity and bring the state more than halfway to its goal of generating 7,500 megawatts of wind energy by 2035.
"Expanding New Jersey's offshore wind industry is a major component of achieving our goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050, while providing significant opportunities and economic benefits for our state," Gov. Phil Murphy said. "Today's award, which is the nation's largest combined award to date, further solidifies New Jersey as an offshore wind supply chain hub and leader in the offshore wind industry in the United States."
"We have a moral obligation to do everything humanly possible to mitigate the impacts of climate change," added Joseph Fiordaliso, the BPU's president.
The board's action was something of a surprise, in that it was expected to choose between the two applicants.
Instead, it allocated 1,510 megawatts of capacity to Atlantic Shores — enough to power 637,000 homes — and 1,148 megawatts to Orsted's Ocean Wind II project — enough to power 518,000.
That comes on top of the 1,100 megawatts approved for Orsted's first project, enough to power 500,000 homes.
"We are thrilled to be moving forward with our project and cementing our commitment to deliver clean, renewable power and well-paid jobs to the Garden State for years to come," said Joris Veldhoven, commercial and finance director at Atlantic Shores.
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"With the selection of Ocean Wind II, New Jersey is now firmly at the heart of the American offshore wind industry," added David Hardy, CEO of Orsted Offshore North America.
New Jersey has set a goal of generating 100% of its energy from clean sources by 2050.
Environmental groups hailed the joint award on Wednesday, saying it bodes well for the future of renewable energy projects.
"The clean energy boom is inevitable, and it is critical that New Jersey regulators are taking proactive measures to expand our offshore wind industry," said Taylor McFarland, acting director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "This is the future and we can either fall behind or stay ahead. I'm happy we've chosen the latter."
"New Jersey has been sitting on a gold mine of offshore wind that has been untapped off the Shore and today's announcement will expand the number of companies that will construct offshore wind turbines," said Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. "In the middle of a heat wave, the timing is perfect for the NJBPU to double down on offshore wind and expand New Jersey's commitment to a clean, renewable energy future."
Fiordaliso said the state will solicit additional wind energy projects every two years until at least 2028.