Record offshore wind leases top $4 billion for New Jersey and New York shores

Biden administration touts wind industry’s job-creating potential

  • Susan Phillips

Six energy companies offer $4.37 billion for the rights to build and operate utility-scale wind farms in federal waters off the coasts of New Jersey and New York, illustrating a dollar shift toward renewable energy investments.

After three days and 64 rounds of bidding, the auction has surpassed all previous federal offshore lease sales, including oil and gas.

At 488,000 acres, it’s the largest offshore wind lease sale in federal waters and the first for the Biden administration, which plans six more offshore wind lease sales to meet its 30-gigawatt goal. energy by 2030.

the six packages off the coasts of New Jersey and New York lie in what is known as the New York Bight, a section of the Atlantic Ocean that stretches from Cape May Point to the farthest tip of Long Island. The winners are Ocean Winds East, Attentive Energy, Bight Wind, Atlantic Shores, Invenergy and Mid Atlantic.

“This week’s offshore wind sale clearly shows one thing: the enthusiasm for the clean energy economy is undeniable and it’s here to stay,” said Home Office Secretary Deb Haaland, in a statement. “The investments we see today will play an important role in delivering on the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to address the climate crisis and create thousands of well-paying union jobs across the country.”

New York and New Jersey have the largest offshore wind goals in the country, aiming for a combined total of 16 gigawatts by 2035.

The Office of Oceans and Energy Management auction for the New York Bight has exploded previous sales, including the most recent 2018 auction when three companies paid a total of $405 million for about 390,000 acres off the coast of Massachusetts. In 2015, two companies offered less than $2 million for 343,833 acres off the Jersey coast. The offshore wind auction also surpassed BOEM’s last sale in 2021 by oil and gas concessions in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Home Office cited a recent report which says offshore wind development could generate $109 billion in revenue for companies in the supply chain.

“The New York Bight has had clear political support, an emerging but robust local supply chain, and a one-year readiness window that should allow successful bidders to quickly begin the permitting process. and put steel in the water by the end of the decade,” said Liz Burdock, CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind. “Today’s lease auction follows a tremendous year that saw $2.2 billion in new offshore wind investment, announcements for nine new manufacturing facilities and dramatic domestic supply chain growth.”

New Jersey is developing a wind port in Salem County and the new Paulsboro Marine Terminalwhich together will create 2,500 permanent jobs in South Jersey and “attract billions of dollars in investment”, according to Governor Phil Murphy.

The auction drew praise from some environmentalists.

“This should come as no surprise as offshore wind is an untapped clean energy goldmine and represents the best way to meet the Biden and Murphy administrations’ climate commitments to address the impacts of climate change,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Now that we see the demand, then we need to make sure that we rapidly develop offshore wind responsibly. Once we do that, we can green our region’s power grid and cut the cord with combustibles. fossils.

But not all green groups are on board. SaveLong Beach Island has filed a lawsuit challenging the BOEM auction for what the group considers a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Bob Stern, who helps lead the group, says BOEM should make an environmental impact statement before settling on rental areas, and those assessments should take into account the cumulative impact of all size wind farms industry in the region.

“This is absolutely not the place for wind turbines three football fields high,” he said.

The poles, or monopiles, to be driven into the seabed for two wind farms currently planned off Ocean City and Atlantic City, will be 35 feet in diameter, 80 stories high and have 350-foot blades. . They will be surrounded by harsh structures that have never existed off the coast of Jersey. Back, like many locals, fears that the sight of wind turbines will scare away tourists without solving the climate crisis. Stern’s group is not against wind farms, but thinks they should be located further offshore.

“The public owns the ocean,” Stern said. “It’s not the agency. And they make those decisions about what areas of the ocean to use, and there’s almost no public role in that. This seemed to us to be absolutely false.

the fishing industry is also pushing back, fearing that wind farms could lead to the collapse of the clam and scallop fishery. Recreational fishers say the wind farms will jeopardize an already fragile ecosystem, which has not been thoroughly studied to find out the real impacts.

“Millions of acres of ocean are being sold and the environmental risks are unknown,” said Greg Cudnik, who operates a recreational fishing boat on Long Beach Island and helps run the bait shop and material from his family. “I live here. I fish here. I see changes in the ocean. I think you’re going to ruin more than you help with these projects.

Cudnik and Protect Our Coast NJ member Suzanne Hornick don’t want to see wind farms along the coast. Hornick says that because of government subsidies passed on to taxpayers, citizens will pay higher rates for corporate profits.

“They’re willing to bid and pay billions of dollars for a rental area,” Hornick said. “Why doesn’t this set off alarm bells for people? This means that most likely they will make trillions in profit. This is because it is a for-profit operation. It’s not because they care about the Earth.

Hornick said wind farms threaten endangered North Atlantic right whales, which migrate along the coast and are reduced to a population of around 350.

Haaland described the sale as a “once in a generation opportunity” during an announcement in January. New Jersey and New York made a to push to attract offshore wind farms as well as manufacturing and network upgrades necessary to develop the booming industry. Both states say wind development will create “tens of thousands” of jobs while working to tackle the worst impacts of climate change.

Lease stipulations would require union labor for construction and include incentives to use domestic supply chains. The plans also focus on environmental justice by requiring those who win the auction to identify and engage with tribes and other underserved communities, as well as other ocean users such as the marine industry. the Peach.

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a fishing industry group, recently filed a trial against a proposed wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts. The industry says the administration is accelerating the development of industrial-scale offshore wind at the expense of the environment and sustainable fisheries.

The leases are considered tentative until the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission review the auction. Future offshore wind auctions will lease areas off the coasts of the Carolinas, California, Gulf of Mexico, Mid Atlantic, Oregon and Gulf of Maine.

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