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N.J. is forging ahead on offshore wind — creating good jobs along the way

Mike Hellstrom serves as vice president and Eastern regional manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

Posted on June 26, 2024

Almost 150 years ago, New Jersey was the first area in the world to turn on the lights for a whole town with new overhead wire technology. Today, our state is still leading the way on energy, this time by showing what it takes to harness the power of the wind blowing off our coasts.

New Jersey has the most ambitious offshore wind goal on the East Coast: Our state is setting out to build 11 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2040. That’s enough to deliver clean, reliable power to over 5 million homes — more than half of our state’s population. We are building the New Jersey Wind Port, which will be the nation’s largest and first purpose-built offshore wind facility and position our state as the center of the East Coast’s offshore wind industry. And, we’re getting positioned to manufacture key components of the turbines at our new port and at other facilities throughout the state.

This massive investment in a new clean energy industry is mission-critical when it comes to supporting working families in New Jersey, who are hit first and worst by the extreme storms and weather caused by climate change and who know all too well the pain of volatile energy prices. Offshore wind can be a source of stable, reliable clean power in the decades to come and, if we get it right, a source of stable, reliable jobs too. This new industry has already created hundreds of good union jobs for hardworking New Jerseyans — the kind of middle-class jobs that pay a good wage and benefits, come with health care and retirement security, and don’t saddle young people with mountains of student debt.

Going big on offshore wind means more union jobs that will help us grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out. Workers on the new wind port alone have already put in over 200,000 hours. Just imagine how many union jobs we can create when we really ramp up this new industry. Of course, all of this requires an enduring commitment from our state leaders to do things the right way: with strong labor standards and commitments for the working men and women who will power this new industry.

For all offshore wind’s promise (and it is promising), we have faced, and will continue to face, challenges. Interest rates, supply chain issues and inflation have caused some setbacks and cancellations. Thankfully, New Jersey is showing leadership by tackling those issues head-on and forging ahead. It is the only way to build an industry, capture market share, and help us achieve our climate goals. Just last week, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a new, accelerated timeline for the state’s fifth offshore wind solicitation. This will open the doors to more projects in New Jersey’s waters. This announcement comes on the heels of the start of another project solicitation window in late April and the clearing of final regulatory hurdles for the Atlantic Shores South Wind Project, which is on schedule to be the state’s first operational offshore wind farm.

Don’t let the headlines about industry woes or the bluster of dark money-fueled disinformation mislead you: Our state is moving forward with offshore wind, and that’s a very good thing. We are doing it at a faster rate than our neighbors, and that’s because we know the opportunity this industry presents is too great to squander and the cost of climate inaction is too high.

It’s not unusual — or unique to New Jersey — to face challenges when setting up an entirely new industry. We’ve done it before, and with the power of the labor movement in our state, we can do it again — in a way that’s good for workers.

Mike Hellstrom serves as vice president and Eastern regional manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.


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