Recognizing the Need Spurred by Climate Change and COVID-19, New Jersey Moves Forward on Offshore Wind Workforce Development

Recognizing the Need Spurred by Climate Change and COVID-19, New Jersey Moves Forward on Offshore Wind Workforce Development

April 23, 2020 05:32
by J. Wylie Donald

It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.  Offshore wind certainly doesn’t fit in that category.  In fact, it might be said that offshore wind blows everybody good.  In New Jersey it is viewed that way.  New Jersey’s Wind Council released its report (attached) Tuesday detailing plans for creating the Wind Innovation and New Development (WIND) Institute. The WIND Institute will serve as a center for education, research, innovation, and workforce training related to the development of offshore wind in New Jersey and the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.

The Governor’s press release is enthusiastic.  Not only are praises sung from the Governor’s office, but also ringing out in support are the Economic Development Agency, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Bureau of Public Utilities, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.  And no wonder.  Besides being a multi-billion dollar industry going on over many years and a carbon-free resource vital to the fight against climate change, as stated by the NJEDA’s CEO, Tim Sullivan, offshore wind “would be a welcome economic boost at any time, but it will be even more valuable as we recover from COVID-19.”  

The WIND Institute has two objectives:  “act as a centralized hub for offshore wind workforce development” and “champion research and innovation that unlocks market potential.”  Thus, the focus is jobs and with a goal of 7500 MW by 2035 and a new project anticipated to start every two years, the WIND Institute has a lot to do.  We take up only two of the more than two dozen function recommendations in the report.

“Working with academic institutions and industry to design and implement initiatives to establish a pipeline of qualified instructors.”  The report is express on the need here:  “New Jersey does not have enough community college and vocational technical school instructors with the necessary qualifications to train a trade workforce to support New Jersey’s offshore wind supply chain.”  The report also notes the countries with the most developed offshore wind expertise:  Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom. That strongly suggests that the necessary instructors cannot be recruited entirely domestically and that New Jersey will need to reach across the ocean to obtain the expertise it will need to take the lead in developing an offshore wind industry.  

Supporting next-generation research at New Jersey academic institutions.”  Most are familiar with the fact that wind turbines keep getting bigger and bigger.  But that is not the technology the report is talking about.  Instead, it offers examples of cybersecurity, unmanned vehicles, and big data. In other words, subject matters that are very much domestic and done at a very high level in the United States.  And, if New Jersey can turn them to good use in the offshore wind industry, an export industry will also be unleashed.

There will be much going on in the Mid-Atlantic and New England littoral, both at sea and on the shore.  With the boost needed to offset the havoc caused by COVID-19, we expect these to be exciting times. 

20200421 New Jersey Wind Council Final Report.pdf (433.2KB)

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The business case for the development of renewable energy projects, from biodiesel and ethanol to wind, solar, and distributed generation, is more compelling than ever as tax and regulatory incentives combine to attract investments. Emerging issues in environmental law and increasingly recognized principles of corporate social responsibility are encouraging public companies to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions, install clean energy alternatives, and invest overseas in projects under the Kyoto Protocol to respond to climate change concerns.

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