By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Danish energy company Orsted announced Wednesday that it is buying out its U.S. partner to take full control of a controversial wind energy farm proposed off the South Jersey coast.
Orsted and New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group entered into a partnership in 2020 to jointly develop the Ocean Wind 1 project, but now PSEG is selling its 25 percent stake to Orsted. Terms of the deal were not announced.
“PSEG has been a valuable partner as we’ve advanced Ocean Wind 1 to this point, and as we’ve successfully advanced our offshore wind vision in the U.S. With a well-established presence in the U.S., we’re confident in our ability to drive the project forward with commercial operations beginning as planned,” David Hardy, an executive vice president at Orsted, said in a news release.
PSEG’s Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Lathrop Craig said in the release “it has become clear” that it is best for his company to step aside to let another investor join the wind farm to optimize the project’s tax structure.
“While this was a difficult decision, it was driven by the best interests of the project and New Jersey’s offshore wind goals,” Craig said.
Orsted plans to build the project, the first wind energy farm along the New Jersey coast, 15 miles offshore between Atlantic City and Stone Harbor.
As part of the preliminary work for the project, Orsted is going through the permitting and government review process at this time. The 1,100-megawatt project is expected to come online in 2024 and be fully operational by 2025 to provide power to 500,000 homes, Orsted said.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a strong supporter of offshore wind technology, wants New Jersey to become a leader in green energy. So far, New Jersey has approved three offshore wind farms and is looking to add more. Murphy’s goal is to have offshore wind farms producing 11,000 megawatts of power in New Jersey by 2040.
Elected officials in Ocean City and Cape May County have adamantly opposed Orsted’s project, arguing that it will harm the tourism market, the commercial fishing industry and marine life such as the right whales that migrate off the New Jersey coast. They also worry that the giant wind turbines will create a visual blight when viewed from land.
Ocean City and Cape May County are fighting Orsted’s proposal to run a transmission line under the beach and through environmentally sensitive areas of Ocean City to connect the offshore wind turbines to the land-based power grid at a substation next to the decommissioned B.L. England Generating Station in Upper Township.
Lately, environmental groups have taken different sides in the controversy over eight dead whales that have washed up on the beaches of New Jersey, New York and Maryland since December.
Some of the environmental groups are questioning whether sonar mapping of the seabed for the wind farm project could be related to the whale deaths. Other groups are saying that there is no direct evidence to tie the whales washing ashore to any work related to the wind farm.
Orsted has said that its project is not responsible for the whale deaths. The company maintains it is being careful to avoid any negative impacts on marine life or the communities that will be affected by its project.