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New Jersey Unveils Plan to Become ‘Wind Turbine Capital’

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The Energy Mix is a Canadian non-profit that promotes community awareness of, engagement in, and action on climate change, energy, and post-carbon solutions. Each week, we scan up to 1,000 news...

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  • Jun 26, 2020

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Determined to be for wind energy what Texas is to fossil fuels, New Jersey has announced plans to become the go-to state for the production of offshore wind turbines, beginning with the construction of a giant port along the Delaware River.

As state elections loom, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) is banking on 800-foot-tall turbines “[dotting] the East Coast horizon as Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states rush to build more renewable energy,” writes the Washington Post. And Murphy intends to put his state at the centre of production.

“The state government is planning to turn 30 acres along the Eastern Shore of the Delaware River 20 miles south of Wilmington, Delaware, into a staging area for assembling the massive turbines,” notes the Post.

“Already one of the nation’s fastest-warming places,” New Jersey “wants to generate 7,500 megawatts from offshore wind by 2035”—sufficient to power half of the state’s homes. By the middle of the century, the state plans to have 100% of its electricity needs met by clean energy.

But New Jersey’s drive to produce the turbines “is about more than just tackling climate change,” says the Post.

“We have a huge opportunity,” said Tim Sullivan, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. “Somebody’s going to get to be the Houston of American offshore wind.”

With their eyes on green job creation (the port construction itself should employ some 1,500 people), “state leaders are also hoping to coax factories to the rural area, too, and have set aside 25 acres for potential turbine part manufacturers,” with 160 acres earmarked for future development. Construction is set to begin in 2021, and operations are scheduled to launch by 2024. 

Expressing his hopes that the turbine port may one day supply “Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia,” Murphy told the Post New Jersey is “literally creating this industry from whole cloth.” 

With the nearest residential area five miles distant, and the state claiming abundant electricity from three nuclear reactors already located onsite, the designated acres on the Delaware riverfront “check off a number of boxes for politicians and engineers,” explains the Post. Even more important is that “there are no bridges between it and the open ocean”—an essential feature given that the assembled turbines “are often stood upright and moved into place by ship.”

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and other supporters of renewable energy welcomed Murphy’s announcement. “Today’s focus on port infrastructure development shows the Garden State is positioning itself as a first mover in the race to capture the jobs and investments associated with offshore wind manufacturing, assembly, and staging,” said AWEA Senior Director Laura Morton.

Dan Reicher, who oversaw the U.S. Department of Energy’s renewable energy office under then-president Bill Clinton, called Murphy’s plan “a serious shot in the arm at a very difficult moment” as the U.S. faces the dual challenges of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adding to the difficulties: Donald Trump’s notorious and ill-informed hostility toward wind turbines, including baseless accusations that they cause cancer.

Such belligerence from their leader notwithstanding, federal officials are in conversation with Murphy’s advisors, who are confident that New Jersey’s plans to become the wind turbine capital of the East Coast will bear fruit.

Even so, the fact that the U.S. government is not coordinating construction between the states—“like it did in the shipbuilding boom during World War II”—is still a species of madness, said James Manwell, director of the Wind Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 

“If this were a rational world, the federal government would take a greater role,” he told the Post.

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Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jun 29, 2020

... and who gets to pay for all this extravagant spending? Yep, you guessed it, the poor and middle class. 
Néw Jersey is a good example of the inevitable demise that occurs when the elite run out of other peoples money.

The Energy  Mix's picture
The Energy Mix on Jun 29, 2020

Ummm, that's strange...I could have sworn the extravagant spending we were seeing was in fossil fuel subsidies that add up to trillions of dollars per year world-wide.

A few years ago, I saw a simple bar graph that compared annual U.S. government funds to the fossil industries vs. renewables. The renewables bar was tiny. The fossil funding was so high that the graph exceeded Facebook's maximum length for a publishable image. But, y'know, these days that's *almost* okay, if it weren't so wasteful of limited resources and, even more important, so overwhelmingly damaging to poor and racialized communities. Because renewables and especially energy efficiency are so affordable that they out-compete fossils in spite of an utterly imbalanced playing field.

But while we're here, just remind me -- who was it that drove and authorized all of this horrendous, climate-busting, fiscally irresponsible waste? Surely one way of characterizing those fossil-funded politicians and former industry lobbyists now staffing the Trump administration is...the elite?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 29, 2020

"The fossil funding was so high that the graph exceeded Facebook's maximum length for a publishable image."

Mitchell, though the graph could have been 100% legit, Facebook is not a bastion of reliable data.

"...[fossil fuels are] so overwhelmingly damaging to poor and racialized communities."

Far be it for me to defend fossil fuels. But poor people of color continue to live in areas near refineries because property values are cheaper, not the other way around.

"Because renewables and especially energy efficiency are so affordable that they out-compete fossils in spite of an utterly imbalanced playing field."

The demographic promoting renewables and efficiency is exclusively affluent, and predominantly white. Poor people, it turns out, have more immediate needs to consider than climate change.

Renewables can't keep their lights on at night, and efficiency? It never lit a single bulb.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 29, 2020

Far be it for me to defend fossil fuels. But poor people of color continue to live in areas near refineries because property values are cheaper, not the other way around.

Yes, homes in the shadow of fossil fuel plants, refineries, etc. are cheaper, and that's why those houses are disproportionately owned and lived in by lower income families and a higher proportion of POC. But that still results in the negatives of fossil fuels, the externalities that we desperately need to be priced, to be hitting those communities the most. That's a core part of the environmental justice concern and why there's a propensity for these communities (which are also typically lower carbon footprint than average) to feel the impacts of climate change and the resultant health impacts of burning fossil fuels in greater amounts. Put the other way, that means the benefits of weaning off fossil fuels will impact these communities a greater amount-- but tragically they have less of a political pull to influence leaders to follow through on these necessary changes. It's a dangerous situation. 

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jun 30, 2020

You are factually wrong.

In point of fact, green energy has received over $50 billion in subsidies in the last 10 years - US Energy Information Agency. That includes apparently never-ending  payments for energy production that no other producer receives. 

Having been a part of firms generating and selling fossil and nuclear power, I am well aware of the actual help provided by the government. Pretty much none.

A recent study from California conclusively confirms that the rich are in fact heavily subsidized for using renewable energy. The poor are not because they cannot even remotely afford the initial investment for the green technology. Skin color has nothing to do with the inequity. The elite class creates subsidies for themselves, investors and companies know-towing to the elite left.

Being poor is the problem. Living in areas with horrendous schools systems and no businesses does not help the problem. The lack of opportunity is the root cause, not the color of your skin. Skin color is being used to hide the utter failure of the political class.

Green energy is only affordable when others are forced to subsidized the scam. Need to ask yourself, if green energy is so affordable, why the need for never-ending subsidies?

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