New Jersey Will Miss 'Green Collar' Jobs from Offshore Wind

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Last week big happenings took place in renewable energy in the northeast. On September 25, the Governor of Rhode Island selected a company to plan and develop a 400 MW offshore wind farm for Rhode Island.

A year ago, on October 7, 2007, New Jersey had taken the initiative for the development of offshore wind by issuing a Solicitation to private companies to build up to a 350 MW wind farm. But Rhode Island – which began their Solicitation process much later, April 3, 2008, beat out New Jersey by timing their announcement a week before the NJ BPU Review Committee is scheduled to make their recommendation for a wind farm pilot project for New Jersey, this Friday – October 3.

Now New Jersey stands to lose out on possibly being the first state with an offshore wind farm, but also may lose out on the ‘Green Collar’ jobs associated with offshore wind development, unless the NJ BPU selects its only home grown New Jersey based proposal. The BPU interviewed three of the proposers (out of the original five) that are considered contenders for selection by the NJ BPU – Bluewater Wind, Winergy (Garden State Wind), and Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey — and all three claim to have New Jersey offices. But only one of these three companies is actually committed to New Jersey for both the windfarm development and the Green Collar jobs associated with a new offshore energy industry.

‘Green Collar’ jobs refers to new jobs being created to manufacture, install, and maintain new renewable energy resources, and are considered a possible bright spot for capital investment and the creation of new high paying technical jobs.

Bluewater Wind and Babcock & Brown (its parent company) have pledged to the Governor of Delaware to locate their ports, staging areas, and jobs in Delaware, making Delaware their hub for construction and jobs for the entire Mid-Atlantic, including New Jersey. Winergy Power, LLC with various names and related companies have proposed projects in New Jersey (Garden State Offshore) and in Rhode Island (Deepwater Wind). On September 25 the Governor of Rhode Island announced that Winergy has committed to base its corporate manufacturing headquarters in Rhode Island with about 800 jobs, and “pledged to support any offshore project they are awarded from Maine through Delaware from the facilities and employees from Rhode Island.” Both Bluewater and Winergy have proposed to build a ‘pilot wind farm’ for New Jersey, but both have now made it clear they would build off New Jersey, using jobs and facilities located in other states – Rhode Island and Delaware.

Only the third active respondent, Fishermen’s Energy, offers to New Jersey the opportunity to be first, not only in having the first offshore wind farm, but also in the ‘Green Collar’ jobs creation associated with a new industry.

Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey, LLC was formed by New Jersey businessmen with a track record of successful operation of marine dependant businesses, with dock locations and vessels in all of New Jersey ocean ports. Fishermen’s Energy has also committed to build its construction, manufacturing, and assembly port facilities in New Jersey, likely in the economically hard hit port facilities of the South Jersey Port Corporation, bringing needed new jobs to New Jersey’s waterfront – including homeporting Fishermen’s Energy planned 340 foot special purpose construction vessel.

Tim Gelbar, President of AMEC Americas, project engineers who built the first offshore wind farms in England said: “AMEC is pleased to work exclusively with Fishermen’s Energy for the proposed 350 MW offshore wind farm planned off the New Jersey coast where we can contribute our world-class experience in wind engineering to perfectly complement the Fishermen’s Energy team – a whole new industry will be born in New Jersey, with significant number of jobs to support the needed new infrastructure, similar to the offshore energy investment and industry we have seen created in Europe.”

Fishermen’s Energy two phase build-out of its 350 MW offshore wind farm means that, even though Delaware and Rhode Island have ‘announced’ projects first, that New Jersey could still have the first offshore wind farm built and operational off the coasts of the US, if the state chooses Fishermen’s.

While Bluewater and Winergy plans submitted to New Jersey, Delaware, and Rhode Island all are based on construction about five years from now in federal waters – Fishermen’s Energy first phase is eight turbines in New Jersey State waters three miles from Atlantic City – sufficient for environmental testing and scaled to be a true pilot and respond to the Solicitation of the NJ BPU and the recommendations of the NJ Blue Ribbon Panel. This first phase would be built starting in 2010 and would be fully operational at least two years before any proposed project by Bluewater or Winergy could be built off Delaware or Rhode Island (or NJ).

The proposed pilot wind farm by Fishermen’s Energy off Atlantic City has been well received by the local community and endorsed by Mayor Scott Evans of Atlantic City. Paul Gallagher, General Counsel of Fishermen’s Energy points out that, “In the last six months, and within less than a mile of the five turbine Jersey Atlantic Wind Farm at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, Harrah’s has opened a 960 room hotel tower costing $550 million and Borgata has opened the 800 room Water Club, which cost $400 million. A billion dollars of new hotel investment next to the ACUA’s onshore wind farm is a pretty strong vote of confidence. The ACUA hosts wind farm tours almost daily and I understand people request rooms at casino hotels looking at the wind farm. It is easy to see that the offshore turbines will become the symbol of a new ‘greener’ Atlantic City.”

The second phase of Fishermen’s proposal, 66 turbines, would bring the total to 350 MW, are located seven to ten miles offshore and would be built in about 2013 – about the same time frame as the first installations in Delaware and Rhode Island.

So, if the New Jersey BPU and Governor award the 350 MW offshore wind project to Fishermen’s Energy, the State of New Jersey could finish the offshore wind race first and with new local jobs associated with a new industry. Let’s hope the NJ BPU and Governor have their eyes on the goals of renewable energy for New Jersey with jobs for New Jersey by New Jersey based businesses.

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