Fishermen’s Energy, a consortium of South Jersey commercial fisheries that formed a wind power company to influence where such farms on the ocean can locate – away from important fishing and ocean scalloping grounds – has sought for six years to set up a demonstration wind farm 2.8 nautical miles off Atlantic City. Its plan for six wind turbines, producing 24 megawatts of electricity, has the backing of the New Jersey Legislature, environmental groups including the Sierra Club and the federal Department of Energy, and it obtained permits from state and local entities.
The only roadblock has been the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. The BPU must issue a wind renewable energy certificate, a funding mechanism for the proposed project, before the small wind farm can move forward. The BPU has said in the past that the project would be too costly for ratepayers to support. Fishermen’s Energy has always denied that claim, stating the BPU had come to a faulty conclusion through faulty mathematics.
After a 2015 bill that would have given Fishermen’s Energy Wind Project an expedited pass through the BPU was pocket-vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, the Legislature recently passed a revised bill that now awaits the governor’s signature.
The revised Senate bill, S-988, passed the Senate, 23-11, in February. The concurrent bill A-3093 was passed by the Assembly on March 14.
The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Jim Whelan, with the concurrent bill sponsored by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, both of Atlantic County. The revised bill eliminated language that directed the BPU to grant the required permit, and it deleted some language in the previous Assembly bill that would have eliminated a cost-benefit analysis. The cost-benefit analysis has been the bone of contention between the BPU and Fishermen’s Energy for the past two years.
Paul Gallagher, Fishermen’s Energy’s chief operating officer and general counsel, said he has no fears of such an analysis by the BPU now that certain qualifications have changed.
A company from China was originally going to supply the turbines, but now Fishermen’s Energy has decided to purchase turbines from Siemens, the world’s leader in wind turbine technology, with ocean turbines built in Germany and Denmark. On Tuesday, Gallagher said, “In December, Congress passed a five-year extension of the tax benefit project that makes it easier to attract investors. So we have a newly configured project, using Siemens turbines made in Germany and Denmark, traditional Western financing, plus tax incentives to make it even a more cost-effective project then what was rejected before” by the BPU.
“The bill is a relatively benign bill. It tells the BPU to let us come in and submit again. It’s on the governor’s desk, and we hope he signs it.”
If signed by the governor, the new bill would require the BPU to provide within 60 days of enactment of the law “a 30-day period for the submission of applications for certain qualified wind energy projects that the board is currently authorized to approve under existing law. Specifically … a qualified wind energy project that is located in territorial waters offshore of a municipality in which casino gaming is authorized.” It also provides that from time to time, the board could provide additional 30-day periods for applications of such projects or for other lengths of time.
Gallagher said if the governor signs the bill, Fishermen’s Energy is ready to submit its plans for the wind renewable energy certificate.
According to Fishermen’s Energy, the cost to build its offshore wind project would be $199.17 per megawatt of electricity and provide enough electricity to power 10,000 homes. It claims the cost of implementing the project would be less than a dollar a year for the average consumer, and ratepayers would be isolated from construction cost risk, performance risk and decommissioning risk.
It would also provide 400 construction jobs, said Gallagher.
Formed in 2005, Fishermen’s Energy includes owners of Atlantic Cape Fisheries; Cold Spring Fish and Supply Co. out of Cape May; Dock Street Seafood out of Wildwood; Eastern Shore Seafood out of Mappsville, Va.; and Viking Village in Barnegat Light.
Fishermen’s Energy has received all necessary permits to finalize the construction planning, fabrication and deployment of the wind farm. The applicant claims no other project in America is more prepared to put steel in the water.
The project now has a $50 million funding agreement in place with the U.S. Department of Energy, and it qualifies for the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit signed into law late last year, said Gallagher.
Two Companies Win Leases
To Develop Farms Off NJ
New Jersey may soon see wind energy in the Atlantic Ocean.
In November, the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held an offshore land lease sale for the purpose of developing future wind farms. Although Fishermen’s Energy participated in the auction, it lost out to two other concerns.
US Wind Inc. won the right to develop the Wind Energy Area of 183,353 acres off Ocean and Atlantic counties, while RES America Developments Inc. won the right to develop the 160,480 Wind Energy Area acres from Atlantic City south to Cape May County.
The New Jersey Wind Energy Area starts about 7 nautical miles offshore and extends roughly 21 nautical miles seaward. To see a map of the New Jersey Wind Energy Area, go to boem.gov/New_Jersey.
Each lease has a preliminary term of one year, during which the lessee submits a site assessment plan to BOEM for approval. A site assessment plan describes the activities (installation of meteorological towers and buoys) for the assessment of the wind resources and ocean conditions of its commercial lease area.
Although Fishermen’s Energy might be considered a competitor, Gallagher sees the possibility of working with the two larger companies on larger wind power projects. “We know the lay of the offshore land, and we are five to six years ahead of everyone else in that regard. There may be an opportunity to work with them.”
Gallagher said he would be speaking at a New Jersey Wind Energy Forum on March 29 at Stockton University. He will be accompanied by principals of US Wind and RES America, who will discuss their development plans.
“I’m anxious to hear what their plans are,” he said.
In addition, the deputy director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Walter Cruikshank, will give the keynote address, and members of the 2nd Legislative District will address the public. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) will have a video address on the importance of wind energy to New Jersey. A discussion on the introduction of an offshore wind renewable energy credit system will explain how it works.
The public can participate in a question and answer session. The forum from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the campus theater is free, but participants must register at njoswforum.eventbrite.com, as there is a limited number of tickets.