By Wayne DeAngelo
Star Ledger Guest Columnist
In July, on a beautifully sunny, clear day, I found myself on a Rhode Island ferry boat with 60 others, headed out 15 miles into the Atlantic Ocean to see America’s first offshore wind project off of Block Island. What first appeared as specks on the horizon grew larger as we approached. Picture the turbines near the casinos in Atlantic City, but much bigger, on massive steel foundations in the middle of the ocean. As a union electrician with over 33 years of experience in the trades, I couldn’t help but marvel at the engineering that went into this project. From the top of the turbine to the point where it meets the water, each turbine at the Block Island Wind Farm is taller than the Washington Monument.
But what I really saw on this tour was the future of New Jersey jobs. In June Gov. Phil Murphy announced that a Danish company, Ørsted, will develop Ocean Wind, an 1,100 megawatts offshore wind project located 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City. Our wind turbines will be big, too. Big enough to power 600,000 homes and generate 15,000 local jobs, according to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.
As an Assemblyman, and as a union leader, I keep my finger on the pulse of the state’s economic climate to ensure our workers can compete for the jobs of tomorrow. New Jersey has more than a dozen international building trades unions and county councils, which represent over 150,000 New Jerseyans.
We know this: wind power is the future. The wind patterns off our coast are particularly suitable for this kind of renewable energy. And these jobs pay competitive wages and sustain a robust workforce that can’t be outsourced, especially as the turbines need to be built and assembled near where they are installed. Offshore wind requires a local, skilled workforce in a number of sectors, including transportation, operations, construction, maintenance, manufacturing, and engineering.
The building trade unions are ready for New Jersey’s future as an offshore wind leader. We will continue to train our workers through union apprenticeships, so when contracts come online, our members will be ready to seize these highly-skilled, cutting-edge, family-supporting jobs. Not only has Ørsted committed to signing a project labor agreement, but the company has also agreed to lift up working families with $15 million in local investments advancing Atlantic City infrastructure and welcoming small business owners, including people of color and women, into this flourishing industry.
To date, New Jersey has set its sights on generating at least 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. That’s enough to supply 2 million homes with clean, local energy. It’s woven into the state’s economic development plan, and state leaders, like Senate President Steve Sweeney, have carried forward the priority across several administrations. A single average offshore wind farm with around 44 turbines is projected to add $702 million to the Garden State’s economy and to support 4,300 jobs — and New Jersey has several developments in the works.
With emerging technologies that hold such great promise, it’s vital to get in on the ground floor. Already, New Jersey is emerging as a regional and national leader in pursuing offshore wind power. Our efforts here to build a strong clean economy are drawing global attention as far as Europe.
Already, there are more New Jersey offshore wind projects entering the pipeline. This trajectory signals a jobs-rich business climate for years to come, as these projects have a positive ripple effect on many other industries. Cheap energy attracts and retains businesses and sets the stage for high-quality jobs. Through our offshore wind workforce development efforts, we are not only helping New Jersey build a supply chain, but we are also inspiring a bit of friendly competition among the broader mid-Atlantic region.
Wind power can fuel New Jersey, and what fuels wind power is political commitment. Thankfully, New Jersey has continued to demonstrate a commitment to offshore wind. With significant projects like these, we can ensure local workers, and their families, in places like Atlantic City and the surrounding towns, can heartily reap the benefits.
The job engines of tomorrow don’t always look like those of yesterday. When I was on that boat near Block Island, witnessing the large turbines looming above the ocean, I realized just what an exciting time it is to be a New Jersey worker because we’re going to put a lot of people to work building the energy of the future.
Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo represents the 14th legislative district and chairs the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee. He also serves as the assistant business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 269.