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U.S. will hold auction to build wind farms off New Jersey coast

Offshore wind is a core tenet of New Jersey’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 2030 (from 2006 levels). This week, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced it would auction off more than 480,000 acres offshore New Jersey and New York for the development of wind farms.

The auction, to be held Feb. 23, will include six parcels of offshore area, and, if developed, could ultimately generate enough power for two million homes.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland ballyhooed the Biden administration, in a statement, saying they’ve, “made tackling the climate crisis a centerpiece of our agenda, and offshore wind opportunities like the New York Bight present a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fight climate change and create good-paying, union jobs in the United States. We are at an inflection point for domestic offshore wind energy development. We must seize this moment—and we must do it together.”

Offshore wind presents a massive investment opportunity—$109 billion over the next decade for those in the industry—so it gets a higher billing from government officials trying to pragmatically bring business onboard to, you know, save the Earth. Gov. Phil Murphy said of the announcement: 

“Offshore wind holds the tremendous promise for our future in terms of climate change, economic growth, strengthening our work force, and job creation. New Jersey is already committed to creating nearly one-quarter of the nation’s offshore wind-generation market and these transformative projects are proof that climate action can drive investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, while creating good-paying, union jobs. By acting on this shared vision, we can promote our joint offshore wind goals, and deliver benefits to residents of both states, particularly those in overburdened communities.”

Plenty of people, especially down the shore, have expressed concern over the plans to develop the state’s nearby waterways for wind energy. Some are valid (that they interfere with recreation, could harm wildlife, distract from environmental actions that would have a more immediate impact), and some are hard to defend (that they’d mess up the view, maybe.)

Written in the sale notice, for what it’s worth, is a requirement for those who lease the areas to identify tribes and underserved communities or other ocean users who could be affected by the development, and that the U.S Interior Department will hold offending companies “accountable.”

Added U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), of the decision to hold an auction: 

“Developing offshore wind is a foundational element of America’s clean energy future and our region is proud to be at the forefront. This historic announcement is a huge step forward in tackling the climate crisis for future generations and creating good paying union jobs in New Jersey and across the nation.”

After initially reviewing 1.7 million acres to auction off, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management reduced the potential lease area by 72% based on scientific consultation and input from the commercial fishing industry. The closest distance to any New Jersey shore is 27 nautical miles, and the plots span most of the Jersey coast.