New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) last week approved the $24.25 million purchase of 109.5 acres of land to nearly double the size of the state’s planned offshore wind manufacturing facility.
The purchase, from a subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG), adds to land already leased from PSEG to develop the New Jersey Wind Port, which is expected to cost $500 million to $550 million and have a footprint of 220 acres. The extra parcel will be used to build additional marshaling and manufacturing facilities and provide employees with a second entrance and exit. The port is under construction in Lower Alloways Creek, in South Jersey, next to three nuclear power plants operated by PSEG.
The EDA also hired consultant McKinsey & Co. to study the feasibility of creating a flagship offshore wind research and development facility. The two approvals July 20 add to the state’s aggressive efforts to position itself as a key player in the regional supply chain serving East Coast offshore wind projects, with a goal of supplying equipment and materials to not only New Jersey’s projects but those of other states as well.
EDA CEO Tim Sullivan said the port expansion will help fill what he said is the “current shortfall in fit-for-purpose port capacity across the region.”
“The ability to marshal two projects at once, with additional space for component manufacturing, will turbocharge job creation, opportunities for small businesses, and all forms of ancillary economic activity both locally and across the state.”
Another key part of the state’s plan is to create a flagship research-and-development center. McKinsey, with a budget of up to $880,000, was picked from five applicants and will conduct market analysis and make recommendations for the center based on the outcome of the analysis.
The work will include a “background review on existing offshore wind research and innovation facilities; market analysis to evaluate potential gaps and needs not currently being fulfilled; evaluation of New Jersey’s competitive advantages to address one or more of these gaps; and development of ranked recommendations for New Jersey to pursue,” according to a memo circulated by Sullivan. McKinsey would then evaluate two of the “recommended strategies” and determine their feasibility.
The EDA also has the option to add a third task to McKinsey’s work: creating an implementation plan for the recommended strategies if the project moves ahead. A key goal of the project is to “propel New Jersey forward as the U.S. East Coast hub for world-renowned offshore wind technology research and innovation,” according to the memo. (See NJ Plans ‘Flagship’ R&D Innovation Center for Wind.)
The consultant also will be expected to help the state “support and foster emerging innovations and solutions to offshore wind market challenges and opportunities” and to “incentivize clustering and anchoring of offshore wind research and innovation investments and activities,” according to the memo. The state also expects the state to “capitalize on New Jersey’s existing expertise and reputation for research and innovation across multiple areas, such as cleantech, information technology and life sciences.”
The Wind Port emerged from New Jersey’s plan to generate 7.5 GW of offshore wind power by 2035. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has to date approved three projects — Ocean Wind 1 and 2, and Atlantic Shores — totaling about half the target amount. The BPU expects to begin another solicitation early next year, with two others to follow. (See NJ Awards Two Offshore Wind Projects.)
The EDA says the Wind Port has the potential to create up to 1,500 manufacturing, assembly and operations jobs, and drive billions of dollars in economic growth back into the New Jersey economy.
Construction on the first phase of the port — a 30-acre marshaling area and wharf infrastructure and dredge channel — began in January and is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2024, according to Sullivan’s memo. The first phase also will include 60 acres of manufacturing and 5 acres to be used for general services. Danish developer Ørsted, which is developing the two Ocean Wind projects, has signed a letter of intent to lease land in this phase to support the projects.
The second phase of the port, which is currently in the feasibility stage, includes an area onto which the developer can dump dredge material from the first phase, saving the state $56 million to $61 million in future dredge deposit charges, the memo says. Construction on phase 2 is expected to begin in 2024.
The project’s advance, however, faces opposition from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which on Friday said that it had filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in part because of biological opinions issued by the agency for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
The notice said the NMFS violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by underestimating the impact of building the Wind Port in the Delaware River estuary, “which is designated critical habit for the Atlantic sturgeon.”
“In preparing the biological opinions, NMFS failed to use the best scientific and commercial data available, resulting in a dramatic underestimate [of] the existing baseline impact of vessel strikes on the Atlantic sturgeon population and a failure to accurately predict the consequences of vessel strikes” during the operation and construction of the port, the notice said. As a result, the agency’s finding that the project did not jeopardize the sturgeon population and the opinions expressed in support of the permit issuance are “without adequate support in the record.”
The notice argues that if the correct data were used, the corps could conclude that the issuance of permits “would likely jeopardize the continued existence of the Atlantic sturgeon.”
The Riverkeeper also targets the NMFS opinion on the permit application for the Edgemoor Container Port, which allowed the development of a major container terminal at the Port of Wilmington, about 25 miles north of the Wind Port.
“Authorizing projects that will increase shipping traffic into the estuary will only accelerate the sturgeon’s demise,” said Maya van Rossum, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “I am shocked and disappointed with NMFS for choosing to overlook the vital provisions the Endangered Species Act provides to protect our Delaware River Atlantic sturgeon.”