Experts discuss obstacles and new opportunities at Sweeney Center offshore wind conference

Experts discuss obstacles and new opportunities at Sweeney Center offshore wind conference

Dan Kent, labor relations manager for Vineyard Wind in Massachusetts, discusses offshore wind energy with (from left) Mark Magyar, director of the Sweeney Center for Public Policy at Rowan University; Dan Fatton, director of the offshore wind sector for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority; and Anne Reynolds, vice president for offshore wind for the American Clean Power Association, during a conference on offshore wind, hosted by the Sweeney Center.

Despite setbacks last year, the future of offshore wind energy in New Jersey remains strong, according to Christine Guhl-Sadovy, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU).

Energy experts and representatives from three companies building offshore wind farms in New Jersey expressed hope, determination and resilience during “Moving Forward on Offshore Wind: New Challenges, New Competition,” a conference presented by the Steve Sweeney Center for Public Policy at Rowan University on Feb. 21. 

“There have been a number of exciting developments in recent weeks,” said Guhl-Sadovy, “and they make me more optimistic than ever.”

One major challenge Guhl-Sadovy referenced was Danish developer Ørsted’s announcement in October that it would cease developing two New Jersey offshore wind projects.

Such setbacks, she noted, are to be expected in building any new industry.

“In the weeks and months after the bad news, I think you've heard a couple of themes that have borne out and continue to be true,” Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, said of Ørsted’s announcement. “We're not going anywhere. This is too important to our environmental future, to our energy future, to our economic future, particularly here in South Jersey.”

“We remain steadfast and are moving forward without losing a step,” Guhl-Sadovy told attendees at the half-day conference. “With the challenges and competition, I see something else, and I think everyone here sees it, as well. And that's opportunity.”

New developments

Just months after the Ørsted announcement, the BPU awarded its largest offshore wind award in history to two companies through the state’s third offshore wind solicitation program, Guhl-Sadovy said.

“We're very much in the thick of the development phase at this point,” said panelist Wes Jacobs, project director of Leading Light Wind, which received a 2,400-megawatt contract.

Managing Director Damian Bednarz of Attentive Energy, which received a 1,342-megawatt contract, compared the multi-decade process of implementing offshore wind energy projects to a marathon.

“It's great to be reminded of the opportunities that we're creating here for the state, openly talking about the challenges, because you’ve got to talk about the hard times and the good times,” Bednarz said.

“We're making progress, putting one foot in front of the other,” said Terence Kelly, head of external affairs at Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind, which received a state contract to provide 1,500 megawatts of offshore renewable power in 2021. “There is a lot of momentum. This is quite a breakthrough year for offshore wind.”

Competition and collaboration

According to Dan Fatton, director of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Offshore Wind Sector, New Jersey is leading the region in the development of offshore wind energy.

“We have really set the standard for moving forward on offshore wind,” Fatton said.

Yet other states along the Atlantic Seaboard are eager to reap the benefits of offshore wind energy, according to Anne Reynolds, vice president of offshore wind in the American Clean Power Association.

“All of the states are trying to do what New Jersey is trying to do,” Reynolds said.

“These can become New York projects. They can become Maryland projects,” Sullivan said. “We have to stay competitive.”

As other states in the region emerge onto the offshore wind energy scene, opportunities exist for collaboration as well as competition, Guhl-Sadovy explained. New Jersey leaders are looking for opportunities to work with “friendly sister states” like New York, Delaware and Maryland in favor of efficiency and regional cost-savings on clean energy transmission

‘The cornerstone of the clean energy agenda’

Although investing in offshore wind infrastructure may seem daunting, “there's always a cost to doing nothing,” Guhl-Sadovy said.

“Offshore wind is at the cornerstone of the clean energy agenda,” she said. “This is an opportunity for New Jersey to lead the nation in cutting our share of carbon emissions while standing up an industry that will provide historic economic benefits to the state.”

In addition to helping to mitigate climate change, the offshore wind industry is projected to generate about 20,000 new jobs by 2030, Fatton said.

“We're not going to let the opportunity to bring a global industry and all the associated benefits to New Jersey pass us by,” Guhl-Sadovy said.

Rowan’s Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering is addressing offshore wind energy in the undergraduate curriculum and through research and development activities, according to Yolanda Tikitia Mack, associate dean for Industry Partnerships and Workforce Development in the college.

“We are uniquely focused and positioned to be a key player,” she said. “This is a huge opportunity for the state of New Jersey and an excellent opportunity for industry and academia to work together to progress offshore wind forward.”