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Murphy signs executive order to jump-start offshore wind industry

The governor’s fortnight of executive orders is intended to make the point that he represents a sea change from the previous governor. Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy was pointing off shore, signing an executive order he predicts will put the wind under the wings of another sector of the alternative energy industry.

“Residents want more diversified sources of energy that are reliable yet also sustainable,” said Murphy. “And, importantly, the entrepreneurs and leaders who have been waiting since 2010 to make offshore wind a reality in New Jersey need to know we haven’t given up on their vision of a cleaner energy future.”

The executive order calls on the DEP and the Board of Public Utilities, or BPU, to fully implement the 2010 Offshore Wind Economic Development Act. It’s a not so subtle reminder that the previous governor signed the bill eight years ago and then sat on it.

“The status quo that has stifled development ends now,” added Murphy.

With a goal of 3,500 megawatts of wind-generated energy by 2030, the executive order will jump-start regulatory processes that have stalled for lack of interest, Murphy says, by the previous governor. The order calls for the DEP and the BPU to rework the rules to make development easier, and then solicit enough bids for builders to construct offshore wind turbines to generate 1,100 megawatts in the short-term. The economic impact, supporters and advocate say, would be significant.

“You’re going to generate 3,500 megawatts, but you’re talking about over 1,000 manufacturing jobs,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “That is good, good paying jobs. There’s cable production, there’s tower production, there’s foundation production, there’s turbine production, there’s blade production. We have a chance to capture that here in New Jersey.”

The New Jersey Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel, a member of the Murphy transition team who advocated for an emphasis on wind and other alternative energies, praised the executive order.

“Think about it this way,” he said. “Once you build the windmills, it costs you very little to operate. You don’t have to buy power. You don’t need to have security guards. And you don’t have to worry about an oil spill or something like that, or an accident, so it really is a much better way to go for the future of New Jersey. It’s going to create not only thousands of jobs in construction and manufacturing, but long-term jobs because of the economic activity.”

Tittel says 1,100 megawatts would generate enough electrical energy for half a million households, and if the state hits the goal of 3,500 megawatts by 2030, that would be enough electrical energy for about one-third of the state. Right now, the offshore wind industry is non-existent and the modest onshore turbines produce very little, except a governor’s desire for more.