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US approves Orsted’s offshore wind farm to start construction

ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY (AP) – The United States’ (US) federal government gave the go-ahead on Wednesday for New Jersey’s first offshore wind farm to begin construction, clearing the way for the first of at least three – and likely many more – such projects in a state trying to become the East Coast leader in wind energy.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved a construction and operations plan for Ocean Wind I, a wind farm to be built by Danish wind energy company Orsted between 13 and 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City. The wind farm would power 500,000 homes.

Additional approvals from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the US Environmental Protection Agency still must be obtained, which Orsted estimates will happen by the second quarter of 2024.

The project already has all of the major state permits it needs, said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Two minor state permits remain outstanding.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s action represents the third federal approval of a commercial-scale offshore wind energy project in the US, joining the Vineyard Wind project in Massachusetts and the South Fork Wind project in New York, both of which are now under construction.

Land-based windmills turn in the wind in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the United States. PHOTO: AP

Orsted said it plans to begin construction in New Jersey this fall, “delivering on the promise of good-paying jobs, local investment and clean energy,” said David Hardy, the company’s Chief Executive Officer for the Americas.

“Since day one, the Biden-Harris administration has worked to jump-start the offshore wind industry across the country, and today’s approval for the Ocean Wind I project is another milestone in our efforts to create good-paying union jobs while combatting climate change and powering our nation,” said US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy called the federal approval “a pivotal inflection point not just for Orsted, but for New Jersey’s nation-leading offshore wind industry as a whole”.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said Orsted will compensate fishing businesses for lost revenues and reimburse them for lost or damaged gear. The company also will create a navigational safety fund for equipment upgrades, the bureau said.

The project would place nearly 100 wind turbines off the coast of southern New Jersey, where they would be visible from Atlantic City and Ocean City.

That has generated fierce opposition from community groups, most of whom also blame site preparation work for a spate of whale deaths since December. At least 60 whales have died on the US East Coast since then. But three federal and one state agency all said there is no evidence linking the deaths with offshore wind preparations.