New Jersey has set an ambitious goal to supply 7,500 MW of offshore wind energy to the State by 2030. In order to meet this goal, New Jersey will be required to provide port services to support the development of offshore wind farms. To that end, Governor Murphy included $200 million in the State’s budget to construct an offshore wind port located in Salem County. Moreover, the facility will be utilized for manufacturing, marshalling and supply chain activities. This is in addition to the $250 million pledged by Orsted and EEW Group, a German large-scale pipe manufacturer, to build a facility at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal that will manufacture monopiles, which serve as foundations for offshore wind turbines. This significant investment in offshore port facilities will allow New Jersey to not only promote wind farm development off its coast but also become a hub for the growing offshore wind industry along the entire East Coast.
The Salem County Wind Port and Paulsboro Marine Terminal will provide docking facilities for vessels used in the construction, cabling and maintenance of wind turbines. These facilities will have areas where wind turbine components can be manufactured, staged and assembled prior to transport to the offshore wind farms. There are a number of considerations when designing an offshore wind port facility, including sufficiently sized storage capacity for the extremely large wind turbine components and the ability to support the weight of such components and foundations. Unfortunately, unlike Europe, the United States does not have significant coastal land area to develop mega-ports, which are the most useful for the industry. Therefore, states along the East Coast seem more likely to develop an integrated port network to ensure that the offshore wind developers have the facilities they need to complete their projects. The 200-acre-planned Wind Port in Salem County and the 190-acre Paulsboro Marine Terminal are anticipated to be an integral part of this network.
Moreover, the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 dispelled any question as to whether the Jones Act will apply to offshore wind farms located on the Outer Continental Shelf. The Defense Authorization Act clarified that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act covers facilities producing non-mineral energy sources attached permanently to the Outer Continental Shelf, such as wind turbines, thus, making these turbines subject to federal law. This in turn will require developers to utilize Jones Act compliant vessels (vessels that are US owned and operated) when transporting wind turbine components from a US port to the wind farm for construction, operation or maintenance. Therefore, the ability to manufacture wind turbine components at a US port is critical to the development of offshore wind along the Eastern seaboard.
Development of the ports are likely to invoke environmental justice concerns, which is a priority for the Murphy Administration. The Salem County Wind Port and the Paulsboro Marine Terminal, both located near identified overburdened communities, will almost certainly provide jobs to individuals living in these communities in construction, manufacturing, loading, marshalling and maintenance of the turbines. The Town of Grimsby located in the United Kingdom is an example of a community that benefitted from the development of a port facility to support offshore wind. Grimsby was a struggling fishing village, but that changed when an offshore wind port brought a supply chain of manufacturers, suppliers, support vessels and services to the Town. In a short period of time, Grimsby saw significant economic growth and opportunity because of the offshore wind industry, which can be a model for Salem and Paulsboro.
But, along with anticipated economic growth, the operations at the Salem County Wind Port and the Paulsboro Marine Terminal could result in environmental and health impacts to the surrounding communities. As the ports develop into a hub for the East Coast offshore wind industry, there could be an impactful increase in vessels and other transportation vehicles, which in turn could be detrimental to air quality in the region. Additionally, manufacturing facilities could increase air emissions, water discharges and the generation of waste. Although there is strong support for renewable energy, New Jersey is likely to consider and address, along with beneficial growth, the potential environment and health concerns in offshore wind port areas.
While this is just the beginning, Governor Murphy’s $200-million investment in creating the Salem County Wind Port and the $250-million venture at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal bring not only the anticipation of jobs and growth to the area, but they also begin to solidify New Jersey’s role as an integral part of the offshore wind industry.