Offshore wind port designed to create manufacturing and assembly hub for East Coast
  • New Jersey expects an offshore wind port in Salem County will help the surrounding region rebound from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The facility has the potential to become a major hub for staging, assembly, and manufacturing related to offshore wind projects along the East Coast.
  • The global offshore wind industry is expected to see capacity increase fifteen-fold by 2040, when it will be a $1 trillion industry, according to the International Energy Agency.

For New Jersey, offshore wind power is not just a part of its move to clean energy, but also a way to help the state’s economy rebound from COVID-19.

The New Jersey Wind Port, the first facility of its kind in the U.S., is designed as a hub for the staging, assembly, and manufacturing needed for wind projects along the East Coast. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, the port may lead to 1,500 permanent jobs and hundreds of construction jobs, Governor Phil Murphy said while announcing the project in June. While the fossil-fuel industry saw prices tumble and had to cut production, offshore wind usage continues to expand.

“We have one wind port already in New Bedford, Massachusetts, but it’s much smaller than what is planned in New Jersey,” Liz Burdock, president and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, told Karma. “The New Jersey port has the potential to create a cluster or hub for the offshore wind industry.”

Construction of the first phase, scheduled to begin next year and completed by 2023, will include a 30-acre area for marshaling activity and a 25-acre site for manufacturing components. The second phase will start in 2024 and add more than 160 acres of space for new berths, marshaling areas and manufacturing space.

“Offshore wind is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not only protect our environment but also greatly expand our state economy in a way that has immediate impacts and paves the way for long-term growth,” Governor Murphy said in a press release

New Jersey has pledged to produce 7.5 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2035 — enough to meet half the state’s electricity needs — and then plans to move to 100% clean energy by 2050. The commitment to the industry will give New Jersey the opportunity to attract a large share of the growing offshore wind manufacturing and servicing industry, Burdock said.

Wood Mackenzie expects the U.S. to add 25 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity between 2020 and 2028, much of it along the East Coast. New York, which has committed to produce 9 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2035, selected two projects last year that should come online by 2024, but delayed a second solicitation in April because of COVID-19. 

Virginia has pledged to develop 5.2 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2034. Dominion Energy announced June 29 that it finished a project off Virginia Beach, the country’s second offshore wind facility, following the one off Rhode Island’s Block Island that began operating in 2016.

“The equipment used for utility-scale electricity generation is so large that it has to be produced locally,” Burdock said. “We have an offshore wind growth target of 500 gigawatts around the world, and the U.S. will have 100 gigawatts of that.”

Global leaders, such as Orested, Vestas and Siemens, come from countries along the North Sea where the industry began. They are looking to expand U.S. operations to produce components such as blades, which can be up to 260 feet long. Europe is the leader in offshore wind capacity, with 22.1 gigawatts of capacity by the end of 2019. The U.K., Germany, China, Belgium and Denmark have the most offshore-wind capacity.

“I do see opportunities for small, niche companies, especially on the data side,” said Burdock, adding that installation and component manufacturing are other areas where “small startups can make a difference.”