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Biden administration will lease a half-million acres off N.J. and N.Y. coasts for wind power

The announcement came as the Biden administration is under increasing pressure to show progress on renewable energy as a key bill stalls in Congress.

First Lady of New Jersey Tammy Murphy toured the EEW American Offshore Structures site at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal in July where a manufacturing facility to turn out steel components for offshore wind farms was under construction.
First Lady of New Jersey Tammy Murphy toured the EEW American Offshore Structures site at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal in July where a manufacturing facility to turn out steel components for offshore wind farms was under construction.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

The Biden administration announced Wednesday six new leases for offshore wind projects covering 480,000 acres off the coast of New Jersey and New York — states that already have ambitious plans for the renewable source in their energy portfolios.

Companies awarded the leases would build projects expected to generate enough to power the equivalent of nearly two million homes.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland made the announcement with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold an auction for the leases — the first of the Biden administration — on Feb. 23 for the area known as the New York Bight. Despite the name, much of the bight falls off the coast of New Jersey, spanning from Long Island, N.Y., to Cape May.

The administration has a goal for private companies to install 30 gigawatts of offshore wind annually in the U.S. by 2030.

New Jersey has three projects in the pipeline totaling 3.7 gigawatts, enough to power about 1.5 million homes, with the goal of 7.5 gigawatts by 2035.

» READ MORE: With offshore wind, New Jersey could be launching its biggest job creator ‘since the casinos’

New York has plans for 9 gigawatts of offshore wind to be powered by five projects by 2035.

The announcement comes as the Biden administration is under pressure to show gains against climate change. A bill that would help foster offshore wind and other clean energy projects has stalled in Congress. A new survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication showed that 75% of Americans are cautious, concerned, or alarmed by climate change. A third fall into the alarmed category.

“The Biden-Harris administration has 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,” Haaland said. “We are at an inflection point for domestic offshore wind energy development. We must seize this moment — and we must do it together.”

She estimated the projects could generate 80,000 new jobs.

Murphy said offshore wind “holds the tremendous promise for our future in terms of climate change, economic growth, strengthening our workforce, and job creation.”

The state has already committed to creating what would amount to nearly one-quarter of the nation’s offshore wind-generation market. Murphy called the projects “transformative” and “proof that climate action can drive investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, while creating good-paying, union jobs.”

New Jersey is currently developing a 200-acre wind port in Salem County to foster the nascent offshore wind industry with marshaling operations — staging, assembling, and shipping — as well as manufacturing of giant turbines. A separate manufacturing area is under construction by EEW at the Paulsboro Marine Terminal upriver in Gloucester County to build 400-foot-long, 2,500-ton steel monopoles that serve as foundations for the turbines.

New Jersey hopes the facilities will capture key parts of the supply chain for offshore wind that is now dominated by Europe. The supply chain is valued at $109 billion over the next decade for the U.S.

On Wednesday, New York and New Jersey announced that they would collaborate and establish “a durable domestic supply chain that will facilitate the responsible development of the offshore wind industry and deliver benefits to residents of New York and New Jersey, including underserved, disadvantaged, and overburdened communities.”

Murphy said the collaboration was a “game changer” by creating a “regional cluster that will make it very compelling ... for folks to not just install but build the stuff here.”

“Unlocking this opportunity is exactly what we’ve been waiting for over four years,” said Hochul, referring to what she said were delays by the Trump administration.

Hochul said her administration will meet with the Murphy administration within a few weeks to work on details of the supply chain collaboration.

» READ MORE: N.J. fishing groups worry offshore wind will adversely affect their industry: ‘This is our farmland’

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is also engaged with members of New Jersey’s large fishing industry, the public, and other interests. It has already reduced much of the majority of acreage possible for leases to avoid conflicts. Commercial and recreational anglers worry that wind farms with their soaring turbines could disrupt fish habitat, reroute fishing lanes, and force sport anglers farther out to sea.