In April 2017, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy—then running for office—promised to target construction of 3.5 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity by 2030—enough to power 1.5 million New Jersey homes. That particular piece was part of a broader strategy for the state to achieve 100-percent clean energy by 2050.
Soon after his inauguration, in January 2018, Murphy signed an executive order directing the state’s relevant agencies to begin formulating the processes required to realize his vision. In February, the state’s Board of Public Utilities took a first step, forming an interagency offshore wind task force and initiating development of a solicitation for the first 1.1 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity.
According to a recent report from the Center for American Progress and the New Jersey Work Environment Council, Murphy’s commitment adds New Jersey to a growing Atlantic Coast bloc—including the states of New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island—where policymakers are aggressively pursuing offshore wind development. (See main article and sidebar on page 28) The construction of new offshore wind farms in New Jersey and other coastal states could lead to more than 75,000 clean energy jobs, according to the report.
“Governor Murphy’s order recognizes the importance of offshore wind development,” said Dan Fatton, executive director for WEC. “This report underscores a major opportunity to not only put people to work installing those turbines, but also to create a regional supply chain that will provide jobs in the manufacturing and distribution industries.”
Examples in the United States and Europe show that with the right policies in place, offshore wind development can translate into expansive job creation and demand for skilled workers, the report says. With more than 100 gigawatts of offshore wind resources available in federal and Great Lakes waters, elected officials and labor leaders have a chance to turn wind farms into economic wins for their working ports and harbors, communities, and workers.
“Offshore wind is a vast clean energy resource that will lead to economic wins for workers,” said Shiva Polefka, associate director of Ocean Policy at CAP. “When coastal states get the right policy in place for offshore wind, they’re supporting working families and being leaders in the urgent fight against climate change.”
The Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island employed over 300 local, unionized workers in the assembly and installation of the facility at wages that ranged from $28 to $40 per hour plus benefits. That number could surge as other states begin their own projects, according to the report. In European Union countries, the manufacture, installation, and maintenance of offshore wind facilities supported about 75,000 full-time-equivalent workers in 2014 when development achieved the level currently targeted by states including New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York.
Labor leaders and policymakers can help encourage these projects, the report concluded, by participating in the permitting process for specific offshore wind projects, supporting comprehensive ocean planning frameworks, and providing job training to ensure that men and women in key construction and logistics trades can apply their skills to maritime work environments.