A South Jersey port, built on a site once polluted by the oil industry, is set to become a major hub for the budding offshore wind industry.
Gov. Phil Murphy and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney joined other officials at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal on Tuesday to hail a new agreement that will bring an offshore wind manufacturing operation to the port on the Delaware River in Gloucester County.
The deal is a $250 million investment in the Paulsboro port, led by Danish offshore wind company Ørsted and German large-scale pipe manufacturer EEW Group. Under the agreement, EEW will base its American manufacturing operations out of the port — a move that will bring hundreds of permanent jobs, officials said.
“This spot upon which we are standing will soon be the site of a state-of-the-art factory which will turn out steel components not just for the offshore wind farms to come off of our own coast but for the offshore wind industry nationwide,” Murphy said during the news conference.
“This is the largest investment in offshore wind manufacturing in the United States to date,” he added. “This is the essence of what strong, public-private partnerships can do for our state’s economy.”
In Paulsboro, EEW will build the monopiles that serve as foundations for offshore wind turbines. The monopiles are essentially massive steel pipes, 400 feet long and 40 feet in diameter, made with five-inch-thick steel plate, according to Lee Laurendau, the CEO of EEW American Offshore Structures.
The new EEW facility is scheduled to open in 2023 according to Holt Logistics, which serves as the landlord for the Paulsboro port. The facility will take up 70 acres of the port’s 190 acre footprint.
Under Murphy, targets have been set for New Jersey to generate 50% of its electricity from clean sources by 2030, and 100% by 2050. The growth of offshore wind will play a major role in the state reaching those goals. Murphy, a Democrat, has pledged to bring 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind power capacity online by 2035.
Murphy noted there’s a “sort of irony” that the Paulsboro port was built on a remediated BP site and that it will now become an offshore wind manufacturing facility.
Sweeney, the Senate president, said he and state Assemblyman John Burzichelli, both D-Gloucester, began work on revitalizing the site two decades ago.
“It’s great to have the turbines out to sea, but it’s even better to have the manufacturing jobs here in New Jersey,” Sweeney said.
Burzichelli said this is “designed to put people to work” and to “feed families” and noted that other industries will come to the port.
Ørsted said its Ocean Wind project — which will generate 1,100 megawatts of electricity about 15 miles from Atlantic City when its online in 2024 — will help New Jersey’s economy recover from the downturn in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and bring power to 500,000 homes in the state. The monopiles built by EEW in Paulsboro will serves as the foundations for Ocean Wind.
“This facility is symbol of what the future American offshore wind industry will look like,” Ørsted Project Development Director Marc Reimer said.
Earlier this year, Sweeney, Burzichelli, and Assembleyman Adam Taliaferro, D-Gloucester, sent a letter to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities demanding that the Ocean Wind project be halted. The lawmakers at the time claimed Ørsted had failed to live up to its commitments to invest in Paulsboro.
No speaker at Tuesday’s press conference addressed that letter, but Burzichelli did allude to difficult negotiations leading up to the deal.
“A lot of stories associated with this progress can’t be told today, because it was a tug of war with strong personalities,” Burzichelli said.
Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of environmental group the Sierra Club, said this is a “big day for wind” and a “major step forward.”
Earlier this month, the state received two more proposals for offshore wind farms. The BPU reviewed those bids, and will decide whether or not to approve them in June.
Meanwhile, Murphy has stressed the need to expand New Jersey’s port capacity to accommodate the offshore wind industry. Beyond Tuesday’s news in Paulsboro, the state has also committed to build a dedicated offshore wind port in Salem County that is expected to bring 1,500 permanent jobs.
Murphy also made a controversial vote to approve expansion of a port in Gibbstown earlier this month. That expansion is being made to potentially serve a proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal, a plan that has been heavily criticized by environmental groups. Murphy said at the time he opposes the LNG plan, but he wanted the Gibbstown port expanded to support future offshore wind businesses.
This story was updated at 4:20 p.m. with additional information from Holt Logistics.