ATLANTIC CITY — The Danish offshore wind firm Orsted, which holds a federal lease to develop an offshore wind farm 10 miles off the resort, officially opened its New Jersey headquarters here Thursday and announced it has received its first federal permit.
It has also hired former Atlantic County Utilities Authority communications manager Monica Coffey, of Margate, as its manager of community relations and communications.
“The state of New Jersey and Atlantic City in particular will have bragging rights to say it’s one of a handful of American cities to have an offshore wind farm,” Orsted North America President Thomas Brostrom said of the company’s Ocean Wind project.
“We are hopeful to see a wind farm going up in the early 2020s,” said Brostrom. “I know it’s still a long time, but it takes a couple more years to get all through the permitting. We can build a wind farm in one to two years ... that’s not the problem. It’s getting through to that part where you can start actual construction.”
Brostrom said the company was notified Thursday morning that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had approved its site assessment plan, giving it the permit to deploy equipment offshore to measure wind speeds and wave height to help with final siting of windmills.
There are 50 staffers in the firm’s first U.S. headquarters, in Boston where the company is working on the Bay State Wind Farm 15 miles off Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, Brostrom said.
“Now we are starting to ramp up here,” he said.
In addition to Coffey, the firm is bringing project manager Jens Hieronymus Gravgaard to the United States to oversee projects here. Gravgaard said he is renting a house in the Boston area for now, but will spend plenty of time in Atlantic City through the planning phase, then hand over the project to a construction manager when all is ready to proceed.
The company, which runs more than 20 wind farms worldwide, selected the location off Atlantic City for its strong, constant winds and shallow water, he said.
“The physical conditions are world-class,” Brostrom said.
New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy was there to celebrate Orsted’s — pronounced Er-stad — opening.
Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam said the city has a role in offshore wind unlike any it has ever had.
“They (Orsted) came to my office the first couple weeks after I was elected and it dawned on me, ‘Wow, someone sees Atlantic City from a different perspective than most companies did before,’” said Gilliam.
Orsted sees the benefits of being on a barrier island, even with potential storms and other difficulties, he said.
Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo said he has been working on bringing offshore wind to the area for five years, and to see it happen made him sentimental.
“The late Senator Jim Whelan had worked even harder getting this to where it needed to be, but unfortunately didn’t live to see it,” Mazzeo said. “But I think he’s looking down saying, ‘Good job — well done today.’”
Mazzeo said the wind farm will diversify the economy, create different jobs, and diversify energy in the state and city.
“It will bring possibly 1,000 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs,” he said. “Finally, the wind is in the right direction.”
Coffey will rely on advice form her former boss, ACUA President Rick Dovey, in approaching her new job, she said.
“Having worked at ACUA, which really was the trailblazer locally for wind energy, I have seen the benefits first hand. I know the technology works,” said Coffey. “Especially living along the coast with all the concerns about climate change, we need to be transitioning to clean energy. I’m happy the day is here.”