Gov. Phil Murphy has been praised for quickly launching offshore wind energy in New Jersey, and his predecessor Chris Christie was blamed for failing to do so, including by us. Now it is turning out that, whether by luck or astute awareness of industry potential, the state’s delay has resulted in it developing offshore wind at the perfect time to get the most benefit from breakthrough technology.
GE Renewable Energy has developed the world’s largest and most efficient wind turbine for use offshore. It stands 853 feet tall and its three blades, each 351 feet long, sweep an area the size of seven football fields.
Called the Haliade-X, the turbine’s 12 megawatt output is a fifth larger than anything previously built. Best of all, though, the new giant is also far more efficient.
The huge blades turn in lighter breezes, General Electric says, making it possible for the turbine to produce its rated power 63% of the time. That’s a significant improvement over the 50% of most wind turbines and much more consistent electricity output than solar panels, which only produce their rated power 20% of the time.
The first order for these state-of-the-art turbines was placed last month by Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind, which was chosen by New Jersey to develop a 1,100-megawatt wind farm in the ocean far off Atlantic City. That Ocean Wind project will use 90 of the GE turbines. Ørsted ordered another 10 at the same time for a small project off the coast of Maryland, which will give the company experience with the new technology before deploying it in the much larger N.J. project.
Shortly after Ørsted chose the Haliade-X turbines, offshore wind companies in the United Kingdom won government bids to install them in what will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm in the North Sea about 80 miles off the Yorkshore coast.
Besides showing industry confidence in the turbines, the bidding also suggested their efficient operation will pay off for customers. Analysts expect them to produce power profitably at lower cost than the wholesale electricity market will pay, with the difference refunded to U.K. customers. New Jersey’s agreement with Ørsted similarly calls for wholesale power revenue beyond its costs and reasonable profit to be returned to ratepayers.
This “new generation of offshore wind farms” will “match nuclear power plants in their generating capacity, powering not thousands but millions of homes,” with the subsidies previously required falling to nothing, according to an article in Fortune magazine. “The projects point to a wholesale reinvention of much of today’s energy sector.”
Ørsted will bring much of this electricity ashore at the site of the former Oyster Creek power plant in Lacey Township, and the rest at a couple of other options being considered. South Jersey might see a significant share of the expected 1,000 jobs constructing the wind farm and another 100 permanent jobs.
Deployment of the Ocean Wind turbines won’t be completed until 2024, but people in the region and throughout the state can start feeling excited about New Jersey’s massive increase in renewable energy and reduction in greenhouse gases, while keeping electricity costs to residents and businesses reasonable.